David Lawrence Jr.

David Lawrence

After a distinguished 35-year journalism career, David Lawrence Jr. retired in 1999 as publisher of The Miami Herald to focus on early childhood development and school readiness.

Three years later, he was front and center in the campaign that led to the 2002 constitutional amendment establishing a voluntary prekindergarten program for all 4-year-olds in Florida.

In 2002 and 2008, he spearheaded two successful Miami-Dade County referendums to use public funding for The Children’s Trust, which he serves as founding chair. Lawrence also is founding chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe.

He has served on the Governor’s Children and Youth Cabinet and twice chaired the Florida Partnership for School Readiness. In addition, he led the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Protection and a similar panel for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Among his achievements benefiting all young children were co-founding The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation with Dr. Jane and Gerald Katcher in 1999, and launching The Children’s Movement of Florida in 2010.

An endowed chair in early childhood studies is established in his name at the University of Florida, his alma mater. In 2016, he was named to the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees.

Lawrence came to Miami in 1989 from Michigan, where he was executive editor and then publisher of the Detroit Free Press. A year earlier, he received the John S. Knight Gold Medal from Knight-Ridder, corporate owner of the Herald and Free Press and more than two dozen other newspapers. During his 10-year tenure as Herald publisher, the paper won five Pulitzer Prizes.

He has received the Scripps Howard Foundation’s First Amendment Award and Inter American Press Association Commentary Award. He and his late father are both in the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame. Lawrence has also received a host of community, state and national honors.

In addition to his UF journalism degree, he completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He has received 13 honorary doctorates, and national honors include the Ida B. Wells Award "for exemplary leadership in providing minorities employment opportunities” and the National Association of Minority Media Executives award for "lifetime achievement in diversity."

Lawrence has chaired the boards of the Miami Art Museum, United Way of Miami-Dade and the New World School of the Arts. He serves on the boards of the Everglades Foundation and Americans for Immigrant Justice. In North Miami, the David Lawrence Jr. K-8 public school is named in his honor. He also co-founded a non-profit school in Haiti.

He and his wife, Roberta, who has a master’s degree in social work, live in Coral Gables. They have three daughters, two sons and seven grandchildren.

To read the text of speeches by David Lawrence Jr., please click here.

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