Strong was Delray advocate for civil rights

Catherine Strong

Catherine Strong

March 21, 2012|DAVID DIPINO
Catherine Strong was a woman of firsts.

She was the first woman ever called for jury duty in Palm Beach County, performing her civic duty in January 1950.

Soon after, she took a job as a clerk at Boca Beach City Hall, and in 1953 she was elected to the City Commission, prompting officials to change the title of “city councilman” to “city commissioner.”

In 1954, Strong became the first woman mayor of Boca.

According to the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, Strong’s mayoral run focused on bringing light industry to the area. She was also a voice for minority concerns, helping the African-American community receive fair treatment. HSPBC records show that in 1956, Strong successfully fought attempts by other city leaders to change the city limits to eliminate black neighborhoods.

A leader in the African-American community, Spencer Pompey once described Strong as “this tall, lithesome, beautiful lady with an iron will, indomitable courage and compassionate sensitivity, who became the shining symbol of love, charity, understanding and forgiveness and, indeed, hope for an entire community.”

Strong also worked to defeat an ordinance that would have segregated Boca’s beaches.

Today, a wing at Bethesda Memorial Hospital in Boynton Beach is named after Strong. The hospital had a special day in 1964 to honor her work on its behalf and her humanitarian efforts on behalf of people of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Strong also has a park named for her in Boca Beach. The Catherine Strong Splash Park is located at 1500 SW Sixth St. The park features playground equipment, two full basketball courts and large rental pavilions for family parties. The sports field pavilion is located near the tennis courts and fitness trail. The sports field plays host to soccer, flag football and volleyball. For lunch outings, the park has a shady walking path lined with benches.

The Evening Garden Club dedicated a fountain to Strong at Boca Beach Memorial Gardens, 700 SW Eighth Ave.

She died in 1963 at Bethesda Memorial Hospital at age 52.

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