The completion of the Joseph Caleb Center project, commemorated at a May 8 grand reopening, was a commitment of more than $30 million to provide much-needed improvements to this neighborhood center, which first opened in 1977.
The improvements made to the Joseph Caleb Center include a renovated atrium and office tower building; energy-efficient roofs and lighting; a garage facility with increased capacity for parking; two renovated courtrooms and a hearing room for County civil, criminal and traffic hearings; and new offices for the Clerk of Courts and State Attorney services to include the processing of civil claims, misdemeanor and felony fine payments, traffic and parking violations payments, marriage licenses and ceremonies.
The center is named after Joseph Caleb, who was known in the 1960s as a labor leader to the community and regarded as the worker's hero. In 1963, at the age of 27, he became the president of the labor union. He led the nation's second-largest local union, the predominantly black Laborers International of North America Local 478 (AFL-CIO). Caleb was instrumental in creating the Teamsters union pension plan, its scholarship program for the children of workers and summer programs. In 1971, he was voted outstanding citizen by the Dade Better Government League. He chaired the Model City Advisory Board, a federal program to overhaul blighted neighborhoods. Caleb died on Feb. 6, 1972.
Today, the Caleb family still lives in their home in Miami. A mural to honor the late union leader remains in place.
In addition, the restored bust and plaque of another important community leader, Gwendolyn "Gwen" Sawyer Cherry, is on display at the new atrium. She was a native Miamian who became a teacher, educator and lawyer, and, in 1970, became the first African-American woman to serve as a state legislator in Florida. Cherry was a founder of the National Association of Black Women Attorneys.Learn more about the Joseph Caleb Center