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What's in a name?

Uniting Tampa's longshoremen

Stevedores who worked in bad conditions for bad pay were organized under Perry Harvey Sr.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 10, 2003

His physical size matched his local political profile: large. Perry Harvey Sr. was a powerful labor leader and social activist.

Harvey brought his young family here from his native Thomasville, Ga., in 1928. He found stevedore work on the docks of Tampa's port. He saw others who worked in bad conditions for bad pay.

By 1935, he had helped organize the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1402. Before long, he was elected president, won wage increases, started pension and welfare programs, and established a strike fund to tide over workers during labor stoppages.

Under Harvey's tutelage, longshoremen jobs on Tampa's docks became highly sought after by blacks who had few other opportunities for decent paying jobs.

Harvey's stature as a labor leader eventually segued into politics. He became a powerful civil rights activist, and in the '50s was appointed by Gov. LeRoy Collins to serve on a state commission on race relations.

He died in 1972 at age 64. His son, Perry Jr., was then elected union president, a post his father held since 1937. Harvey Jr. would later be elected Tampa's first black City Council member.

Harvey's namesake park sits on the northeast edge of downtown, a few blocks from the union hall. The park is undergoing extensive renovations, expected to be completed by spring.

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