Home Locations Arthenia L. Joyner University Area Community Library Arthenia L. Joyner Biography
State Senator Arthenia Joyner has been a political trailblazer and pioneer throughout her impressive career. Born in 1943 in Lakeland, Florida (later moving to Tampa), she was taught by her father, Henry Joyner -- the owner of Tampa’s premier African-American night club, the Cotton Club -- about the importance of sharing personal success with those less fortunate.
In 1960, while an 11th grade student at Tampa’s Middleton High, she attended her first civil rights demonstration, an event that would shape her entire life. As a college student at Florida A & M University, she was arrested twice for civil disobedience in 1963 and spent 21 days in jail. In 1964, she graduated with a B.S. in Political Science from Florida A & M University, and later with a J.D. from Florida A & M University, College of Law, in 1968. After graduation, she worked as a legal assistant to State Representative Joe Lang Kershaw, the first African-American to serve in Tallahassee since Reconstruction. Later, when no law firm would hire her, Joyner took out a $1,000 bank loan to found the law firm of Stewart, Joyner and Jordan-Holmes. She became the first black woman to practice law in both Hillsborough and Polk counties.
Over her distinguished career in law and politics, State Senator Arthenia Joyner has broken many racial and gender barriers. She first rose to prominence when she was elected as President of the National Bar Association in 1984. In 1991, Joyner became the first black board member of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority when she was appointed by Governor Lawton Chiles. She held posts on various airport and civil rights committees before rising again to national prominence with appointments by President Clinton to the U.S. delegation for the World Population and Development Conference, Cairo, Egypt (1994) and the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995). After her turn in the national spotlight, Joyner chose to run for state office in Florida. She served three terms as a member of the Florida House of Representatives from the 59th District (2000-2006). Joyner then served in the Florida Senate as a State Senator for the 18th District from 2006-2012. After political districts were redrawn, she won the race for the 19th District, serving from 2012-2016. Over her legislative career, State Senator Joyner has held many significant posts, including being elected the first black woman Minority Leader (2014-2016).
State Senator Joyner received the National Black Caucus of State Legislators’ (NBCSL) Lifetime Achievement Award and the President’s Award from Florida A & M University, both in 2012. She was inducted into the Hillsborough Women’s Hall of Fame in 2014, and in 2015 the Democratic Caucus in the Florida Senate renamed their annual political dinner for women, The Annual Arthenia L. Joyner Women In Politics Dinner. She remains the longest practicing black woman lawyer in the history of Florida and is currently Counsel for Vanguard Attorneys in Tampa and an appointee to the 2017-2018 Florida Constitution Revision Commission.
Throughout a long career in public life, State Senator Arthenia L. Joyner has always demonstrated a deep commitment to her foundational values of service, equality, and civil rights.