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2013 Mary Hatwood Futrell Award


Geraldine Fortenberry Thompson has been an outspoken advocate for women and girls throughout her public career.

She was the first female elected from the Orlando area to the Florida House of Representatives. During her seven years in the Florida House: she sponsored legislation making it a criminal offense to mutilate female genitalia; a breast cancer survivor herself, she fought to use funds from the Florida lottery to help provide medical services to low-income, uninsured women who are victims of breast cancer; and she defended a woman's right to choose against those who would deny it. What’s more, Geraldine Thompson has spoken out forcefully for women’s equality in the workplace—equal pay for equal work and equal access to advancement.

In 2012 Geraldine Thompson was elected to the Florida Senate.

Thompson was the first member of her family to go to college. She graduated from the University of Miami. She served as Executive Secretary to Rep. Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry, the first women to serve in the Florida House of Representatives. Then Geraldine Thompson and her husband moved to Orlando where she worked as a public school teacher in the Orange County.

After six years, she left the classroom and accepted a position as Director of the Equal Opportunity Office at Valencia Community College, a position she held for 24 years. At Valencia, Thompson initiated a "College Reach Out Program" which enabled thousands of low-income young men and women to go to college. She also connected the college to vendors and contractors from the minority community. As one of her colleagues at Valencia said: "Geraldine Thompson never saw diversity as problem but rather as a power to be used to advance the interests of the college and community."

She also served on numerous boards of community organizations in Orlando, including the Orlando Urban League, WMFE Public Broadcasting Station, the YMCA, and the Holocaust Memorial and Resource Center. In addition, she was instrumental in the founding of The Wells' Built Museum of African-American History & Culture, which includes major exhibits on the contributions of Black women and girls to Central Florida and beyond.

Geraldine Thompson's deep interest in African American History led her to write Black America: Orlando which illuminates the lives and accomplishments of African American men and women in Orlando from the late 1800s to the 1980s.

At the same time, Geraldine Thompson never stopped making history.