Eugene Pettis’ plan to lift others up the ladder
BY CARLOS HARRISON PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT WISEMAN
Through his office window, Eugene Pettis looks out over a changing
downtown Fort Lauderdale skyline.
There’s a metaphor in that evolving view. Pettis grew up not too far
from where his office is now, in what he remembers was then called
the “colored” part of town. Black attorneys were a rarity at that time.
No African-American had served on the board of the South Florida
Water Management District, or in the University of Florida’s student
government, and none had been president of the Florida Bar.
“I believe that my purpose here is to help pull some of the resources
of this community together to truly make it a better place,” he says.
Pettis has a deep, resonant voice, the lanky grace of a former
basketball player, and a way with people. He established the Pettis
Family Endowed Scholarship for low-income students at Broward
College, helped develop a mentorship program for black students
transitioning into college, and helped fund scholarships at local high
schools. Now he’s working with school, church and community leaders
to establish a Community Education Alliance to improve the reading
skills of underprivileged kids. He wants the community to “stop sitting
on the sidelines observing these kids continue to fail.”
Helping others succeed for the greater good has been Pettis’ mantra,
and mission, for most of his life.
Ever since he stopped fighting.