David Lawrence Jr. retired in 1999 as publisher of The Miami Herald to work in the area of early childhood development and readiness. He is president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and “University Scholar for Early Childhood Development and Readiness” at the University of Florida. Gov. Charlie Crist named him to the Children’s Cabinet in 2007.
In 2002 Mr. Lawrence led the campaign for The Children’s Trust, a dedicated source of early intervention and prevention funding for children in Miami-Dade – with an 85 percent reaffirmation from the voters in 2008. He is the “founding chair.” Named by Gov. Jeb Bush to the Florida Partnership for School Readiness, he chaired that oversight board twice. Mr. Lawrence serves on the board of the Foundation for Child Development in New York and the executive advisory board for the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
In 2002-3 he chaired the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Protection. In 2002, he was a key figure in passing a statewide constitutional amendment to provide pre-K for all 4 year olds. He is a board member and former chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe. The David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Public School opened in 2006 across from the north campus of Florida International University. A fully endowed chair in early childhood studies is established in his name at the University of Florida College of Education.
Before coming to Miami in 1989, Mr. Lawrence was publisher and executive editor of the Detroit Free Press. Previously he was editor of the Charlotte Observer, and earlier in reporting and editing positions at four newspapers. (During his tenure as Miami Herald publisher, the paper won five Pulitzer Prizes.)
He is a graduate of the University of Florida and named "Outstanding Journalism Graduate" and subsequently from the advanced management program at the Harvard Business School. In 1988, he was honored with Knight-Ridder's top award, the John S. Knight Gold Medal. His 12 honorary doctorates include one from his alma mater, the University of Florida. His 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." His writing awards include the First Amendment Award from the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Inter American Press Association Commentary Award. He chaired the national Task Force on Minorities in the Newspaper Business, was the 1991-92 president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the 1995-96 president of the Inter American Press Association.
Mr. Lawrence’s board activity: The Miami Art Museum, United Way and the New World School of the Arts (each formerly as chair), and the University of Florida Foundation. As a member of the Governor's Commission on Education, he chaired the Readiness Committee. He was the local convening co-chair of the 1994 Summit of the Americas. And he co-founded a non-profit vocational-technical school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He chairs the University of Florida Regional Council.
His honors include: “Family of the Year” from Family Counseling Services, “Father of the Year” by the South Florida Father’s Day Council and the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Advocacy Award. In 2009 he was honored with “Humanitarian of the Year” awards from both the American Red Cross and the Beacon Council as well as with the Henry M. Flagler Award for Visionary Leadership from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Nationally, he has been honored with the American Public Health Association Award of Excellence, the Lewis Hine Award for Children and Youth and the “Children’s Champion” award from the National Black Child Development Institute.
Mr. Lawrence and his wife Roberta, a master’s graduate in social work from Barry, live in Coral Gables and have three daughters, two sons and four grandchildren.