NAACP recognizes legal "foot soldier"

Santa Rosa Beach attorney Daniel Uhlfelder honored at organization's national convention.
By LEE FORST Daily News Staff Writer

Attorney Daniel Uhlfelder says he has always been interested in civil rights issues.

But it wasn't until he began practicing in South Walton County two years ago that he was able to take on very many cases.

It hasn't taken him long to make a mark. He was one of five attorneys from around the country to receive a Foot Soldier in the Sand Award at the NAACP's 94th annual convention Monday night in Miami.

"I'm overwhelmed. My family's coming down here. My friends have come to watch", Uhlfelder said Monday in a telephone interview from South Florida. "I didn't sleep much last night, I was so excited".

Uhlfelder, 30, is with the firm of Goldberg and Uhlfelder in Santa Rosa Beach. He grew up in Tallahassee and as a child vacationed with his family in Grayton Beach. He expected to concentrate on litigation and real estate law after he returned to the area.

Instead, he has ended up spending much of his time representing individuals and the Okaloosa County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in several discrimination and civil rights cases and issues.

Uhlfelder has represented an Eglin Air Force Base airman in a discrimination case against a Destin restaurant and two men who have complained about an allegedly hostile racial environment at their workplace, Destin Water Users Inc. He also assisted the local NAACP lobby officials in Crestview and Walton County to remove Confederate flags from memorial sites.

The restaurant case has been settled, and the Destin Water Users issue is still pending, Uhlfelder said. The Crestview City Council and Walton County Commission voted to keep flying the flags.

"We lost 5-0 in both cases, but we're not done", he said.

Uhlfelder is on the local NAACP's executive committee, in charge of legal redress. The branch nominated him for the award to the national office, which chose him and the four other lawyers.

"They have to be nominated by a local branch for their work and effort", said Okaloosa NAACP President Sabu Williams, who is also attending the convention. "This is the first time I've nominated an attorney".

Uhlfelder's efforts to help those who suffer from discrimination go beyond his assistance to the NAACP, Williams noted.

"He's more committed to the cause than to the branch, so to speak", he said.