Article: Manatee’s 1st Black lawyer broke barriers unapologetically. Now, his name is honored

The great grandson of slaves and son of migrant farm workers, Layon Franklin Robinson II challenged racial barriers even as a young boy — sneaking sips from the white fountain at the Woolworth store which once stood where the Manatee County administration building stands today.


His family split their time between Albion, New York and Palmetto so his parents could work in the fields. His father had warned he should never be tempted to drink out of the water fountain designated for white people only. “We had to endure, maintain and try not to upset things,” Robinson said in 2004 during a League of Women Voters forum, according to the Bradenton Herald archives. “


My grandfather always said that one day the bottom rung will come to the top of the ladder. I don’t know whether or not we are at the top, but at least I don’t have to drink out of the colored fountain anymore.”


When Robinson passed the Florida Bar exam in 1973, he became the first Black attorney in Manatee County. For the next 47 years, he dedicated himself to the law, service to the community and raising his family. On Monday morning, the Manatee County Law Library, located on the first floor in the Manatee County Judicial Center at 1051 Manatee Ave. W., was renamed in his honor.

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