Miami, Florida , United States
|| November 05, 1954
Feb 05, 2013 07:54am
|Info||Manny Diaz was born on November 5, 1954, in Havana, Cuba. His father helped organize and conduct a strike after Castro nationalized the electric company where he worked. He was made a political prisoner at the Caba a prison located within Morro Castle, and possibly the worst prison of its time in Cuba. In time, a friend paid authorities to release him. |
Diaz?s father insisted that his wife bring their child to the U.S. She initially refused, not wanting to leave her husband behind. In order to convince her to leave Cuba for the good of their child, he threatened her with divorce. On July 21, 1961, a young Manny Diaz left for the U.S. with his mother.
Diaz initially lived in a small, two-bedroom, Little Havana apartment shared with an uncle, aunt, three cousins and the uncle?s mother in-law. He was enrolled at Shenandoah Elementary School where he learned to speak English, survive the streets and play baseball. Eventually, the family was reunited when Diaz?s father left Cuba.
In 1967, Diaz played on a local baseball team called Miami ?Cuba Libre? (Free Cuba) that became world champions. The games were broadcast in Miami in Spanish, and the local Spanish newspaper, Diario de las Americas, sent a reporter to Brownsville, Texas, the site of the finals. The team was given a ticker tape parade through Little Havana, a key to the City of Miami, and appeared on local English speaking TV stations. This was to one of the Cuban community?s proudest moments during the early exile years. In the final World Series game, with his team 1-0, Diaz hit a game-winning two run homerun.
Diaz soon enrolled at Belen Jesuit Prep School and found his first job through the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (C.E.T.A.), a program designed to provide jobs for youngsters from families at or below the poverty level. As a janitor he cleaned,
painted, and performed maintenance duties at the school throughout junior high and high school. During summers, he worked full-time at the same auto parts warehouse factory where his parents worked. He was captain of the basketball, football, and baseball teams and was voted athlete of the year his senior year. Diaz was President of the Student Government, a member of the National Honor Society and the National Beta Club.
Diaz chose to remain in South Florida to continue his education at Miami-Dade Community College, Florida International University and the University of Miami Law School, graduating with high honors at both Miami-Dade (1975) and FIU (1977). While in school, he served as Executive Director of the Spanish Speaking Democratic Caucus and as a youth counselor and soccer coach for Hebraica, a social group comprised of Cuban Jews. In addition, He also had a field inventory route for the National Enquirer and cleaned a bingo parlor between the hours of 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. He served as campaign coordinator and chairman for various local and state political races and, continued to work weekends and summers at the auto parts factory.
During his first year of law school, Diaz secured a clerking job at an established Miami law firms, working full-time throughout law school, while maintaining a full course load. He became the first member of his family to earn a college degree.
Diaz is currently a partner in the law firm of Diaz & O?Naghten, L.L.P. He is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida and the Florida Supreme Court.
Diaz also serves as Vice President and General Counsel of Monty?s Restaurant Holdings, a company consisting of seven (7) restaurants with sales in excess of $20 million and over 500 employees. Additionally, he is also a shareholder in an internet company which sells restaurant equipment. He also serves as General Counsel to the Florida Worker?s Compensation Insurance Guaranty Association.
Diaz, is the former Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Terremark Investment Services, Inc., a Florida-based real estate development firm, where he oversaw the development and management of over 2.5 million square feet of office and retail development valued in excess of $300 million (1990 dollars). He negotiated numerous development, leasing, and financing transactions totaling several hundred million dollars.
Diaz was founder and managing partner of Berkowitz & Diaz. Prior to being admitted to the Florida Bar, he worked at Coopers & Lybrand and served as a consultant to both the University of Chicago Law School and that National Assessment of Educational Progress (standardized testing).
Diaz has been deeply involved in local and state political matters for nearly three decades, first volunteering in 1973, immediately after graduating from high school, in Jim Angleton?s bid for Mayor of Miami. Since then, Diaz has led significant voter registration drives. He has supported, coordinated, or managed dozens of political races, from local school board to Presidential races.
Governor Graham appointed Diaz to serve as a founding Board member of the State Board of Community Colleges, responsible for the administration of the community college system in the State of Florida, the largest in the country. The Insurance Commissioner appointed Diaz to serve on the Florida Residential Property & Casualty JUA, which serves as the residual market insurer for homeowner?s insurance in Florida. While Chairman of the Investment Committee of the JUA, Diaz oversaw the investment of over $1 billion.
Diaz served as chairman of the Dade County Committee for Fair Representation, a broad-based organization formed to lobby for the adoption of single-member districts in the Florida legislature. He built coalition with Common Cause, the Urban League, the Florida Conservative Union, NAACP, League of Women Voters, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and others. Prior to the adoption of single-member districts, it was very difficult for minorities to get elected to the Florida Legislature. Subsequently, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart were elected to the Florida House of Representatives, and Carrie Meek was elected to the Florida Senate. Today, they all serve in the U.S. Congress.
Diaz is well recognized for his extensive efforts supporting bilingual education in schools, and for fiercely opposing anti-bilingual ordinances. He served as campaign spokesperson and filed suit in Federal Court against the Dade County anti-bilingual ordinance and worked to successfully defeat English-only legislation in both the Florida legislature and in the U.S. Congress.
Recently, he filed a lawsuit that was argued before the Florida Supreme Court with a coalition of Black, Women, and Hispanic Bar Associations to defeat a statewide referendum to adopt merit retention for circuit and county court judges.
Diaz served or continues to serve as a board member for numerous community organizations. He was founding member of the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Center, a senior citizens program delivering daily meals, entertainment and other services for thousands of seniors. He served on the Little Havana Development Authority and was the founding member, sole male member and general counsel to the Coalition of Hispanic American Women. The Spanish American League Against Discrimination (S.A.L.A.D.) has had only six chairmen in its 26 year history, Diaz was one of them. Additionally, he was the founding member of the Greater Miami United, a broad-based coalition of community leaders including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, N.A.A.C.P., LULAC, MALDEF, SALAD, organized labor and a host of other Puerto Rican, Haitian and national immigration advocacy groups.
Diaz also served on the board of the United Way Hispanic Leadership Development Program, Miami?s for Me Committee of 100, Leadership Miami, City of Miami Boards & Committees Review Committee, City of Miami City Attorney Selection Committee, and the City of Miami Bond Underwriters Selection Committee. He is currently serving as Co-Chair of the Music Fest Miami, an event that endeavors to build bridges among various cultures.
Mayor Diaz was elected as the Mayor of the City of Miami on November 13, 2001.
Mayor Diaz is married to Robin Smith and has four children; Manny (27), Natlie (18), Bobby (15), and Elisa (6). He also has a grandson, Colin, who is 3 years old.
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