Robert W. and Helen S. Saunders papers

Material Information

Robert W. and Helen S. Saunders papers
Saunders, Robert W ( Robert William Saunders ), 1921-
Saunders, Helen S ( Helen Strickland Saunders )
Physical Description:
32.11 : (77.00 boxes) ;


Subjects / Keywords:
Florida—Race relations ( lcsh )
Affirmative action programs -- United States ( lcsh )
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—Florida—Tampa—History—20th century ( lcsh )
Social problems—Florida—Tampa—History—20th century ( lcsh )
Southern states—Race relations ( lcsh )
African Americans -- Civil rights -- Florida -- Tampa -- History -- 20th century ( lcsh )
African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 20th century ( lcsh )
African Americans -- Florida -- Tampa ( lcsh )
African Americans -- Segregation ( lcsh )
Civil Rights -- Florida -- History ( lcsh )
Civil rights movements -- Florida -- Tampa -- History -- 20th century ( lcsh )
Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th Century ( lcsh )
Discrimination in employment -- United States ( lcsh )


Scope and Content:
Includes materials on NAACP activities in the nation, Florida, and Tampa, civil rights, affirmative action, voter registration, school desegregation, equal employment opportunity, fair housing, and equal access for the disenfranchised. Also includes material on Harry T. Moore, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other notable leaders of the NAACP and the civil rights movement.
Preferred Citation:
Robert W. and Helen S. Saunders Papers, Special Collections Department, Tampa Library, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.
Robert and Helen Saunders
Robert William Saunders, Sr., son of Willard and Christina Rogers Saunders, was born on June 9, 1921 and grew up in an area of West Tampa known as Roberts City. After graduating from Middleton High School in 1940, he attended Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach before entering the Army Air Corps in 1942. He was primarily stationed at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama and, by the time he was discharged in 1946, he had been awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the Atlantic Theater of Operations Medal and the World War Two Victory Medal. After the war, Bob returned to Tampa and worked for the [i]Florida Sentinel Bulletin[/i], the city's black newspaper. His column, "Central Avenue Buckshot," chronicled life on Tampa's Central Avenue. When he moved to Cincinnati to work for that city's edition of the Cleveland[i]Call and Post[/i], he became active with the local branch of the NAACP. In 1947 Bob moved to Michigan and enrolled in the Detroit Institute of Technology, earning his B.A. degree in 1951. He worked for Ford Motor Company, became active in union affairs, and supported the local branch of the NAACP. After the murder of Harry T. Moore in 1951, Bob was appointed Field Director for the NAACP, State of Florida. Between 1952 and 1966 he developed programs aimed at increasing NAACP membership and fund raising. He also investigated police brutality cases, increased voter registration, secured salary increases for black teachers, and worked to end racial segregation in the public schools. During that time he also served as the Executive Secretary for the Florida State Conference of Branches and Youth Councils. In 1966 Bob moved to Atlanta to head the Southeast regional civil rights section of the Office of Equal Opportunity. He served as Chief of the Office of Civil Rights until 1970 and as Chief of the Office of Human Rights from 1970 to 1976. He was responsible for the implementation and enforcement of all civil rights requirements in poverty programs, including the Job Corps, Community Action, Head Start, and Legal Services. He also organized state equal opportunity officers in all eight states of the region to form the Southeastern Equal Opportunity Association. Region IV included Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. When Bob returned to Tampa in 1976, he became the Director of the Hillsborough County Equal Opportunity Office. During his eleven-year tenure, he developed the Civil Rights Program, the Fair Housing Program, the Minority Business Project, EEO Contract Compliance, and the Human Rights Ordinance for Hillsborough County. From 1987 to 1988 he served as Executive Assistant to the County Administrator (Larry J. Brown), Board of County Commissioners, Hillsborough County, Florida. Bob retired from public service in June 1988. Bob's book, [i]Bridging the Gap: Continuing the Florida Legacy of Harry T. Moore, 1952-1966[/i], was published by the University of Tampa Press in 2000. During his career he received numerous awards including the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award from Florida A & M University, the honorary degree of doctor of public service from the University of Tampa, and the honorary degree of doctor of humanities from the University of South Florida. He died on March 18, 2003. Bob's grandparents, Bahamian immigrants, were founding members of the Tampa Chapter of the NAACP in 1917.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
None. The contents of this collection may be subject to copyright. Visit the United States Copyright Office's website at for more information.
Resource Identifier:
u29.128-s06-ead ( USFLDC Handle )

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