Gloria Fletcher: Woman of Distinction
“I think she truly cared about helping people no matter who they were or where they came from,” says Blake Fletcher when asked about his mother, Gloria Fletcher. “She was a voice for the voiceless. She always said if you don’t stand up for the children, who will? She stood up for people because she felt in her heart that it was something that needed to be done.”
A graduate of Gainesville High School, Santa Fe College and Shaw University in North Carolina, Gloria Fletcher joined the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services as a Mental Health Program Specialist in 1977 and became a Program Coordinator in 1982. During those years, she developed the passion for advocacy and children’s rights that motivated her to enroll in law school at the University of Florida. She envisioned law as a key to enacting real change in a system that lacked services for vulnerable children.
“It was the 1980s and she faced criticism for her decision to become a lawyer,” Blake remembers. “People told her that her place was in the home, but she believed in herself. She always said it’s not the smartest person who wins the trial, it’s the person who’s most prepared and believes in the cause—and that you’ll never understand what it’s like until someone’s life is in your hands.”
Gloria’s distinguished legal career proved the naysayers wrong. After graduating from law school, she was appointed Assistant State Attorney by one of her mentors, State Attorney Gene Whitworth. While she often prosecuted young violent offenders, she also focused on the reasons behind their acts and tried to find resolutions that protected and served the community while also addressing the individual circumstances of each case and defendant. She entered private practice in 1990 and at the time of her death in 2015 was specializing in children’s rights litigation, employment law and criminal defense.
Gloria Fletcher was active in Florida and local Bar Association committees, gubernatorial panels, the United Way, the Alachua County Juvenile Justice Committee, Partners for Adolescent Lifestyles and Florida’s Children First, a statewide group focused on the welfare of disadvantaged children. “She didn’t just give her money, she gave her time and her heart,” says former State Attorney Rod Smith.
Blake Fletcher is quick to respond when asked to name her major accomplishments. “Being a grandparent,” he said, “and having a positive impact on people’s lives. Her office—the one I use now—has about 150 photos of people she helped. There’s even a photo of a cow that was named for her! I don’t think any of us understood the impact she had until one of the largest churches in Gainesville was overflowing for her funeral; it was truly overwhelming.”
Asked what advice his mother might have had for young women today, Blake gives a thoughtful answer. “Don’t be afraid to speak your mind or to do things you want to do,” he says. “Believe in yourself.”
About Women of Distinction
Women of Distinction recognizes outstanding female service in Alachua and Bradford Counties, and was created by the Women’s History Committee at Santa Fe College in 1987. Women of Distinction has honored more than 150 outstanding women in the community since its inception and acknowledges new women each spring at a formal ceremony.
The 2016 Women of Distinction ceremony will be held Thursday, March 31, at the Best Western Gateway Grand. This year’s Women of Distinction are Bonnie Cameron, Susan Faulkner-O’Neal, Grae Horvath and posthumously Gloria Fletcher. Also being honored at the ceremony is the Woman of Promise Victoria Denmark.
Tickets for the Women of Distinction event are $35 per person and are available online. Reservations should be made early, as seating is limited. For more information, please contact event coordinator Teri McClellan at 352-395-5201.