Here’s a look at Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County – then and now from a historical perspective.
The face of a community can dramatically change over the decades and Palm Beach County is no exception.
The Legal Aid Society was started in 1949 and at its inception employed one attorney whose purpose was to give free legal advice to the economically disadvantaged.
Court litigation was referred to members of the Palm Beach County Bar Association who handled the cases on a voluntary no-fee basis. This was the post-war era and, for our county, the beginning of rapid migration. Growth was fueled by soldiers returning with “sand in their shoes” to the tropical setting they discovered while stationed at one of the local military bases. They were seeking jobs or retirement in the Sunshine State.
Downtown West Palm Beach flourished and television made its first appearance in the county before an audience of reporters and Philco TV dealers. Social problems were handled through churches, neighbors and families. Major health problems were tuberculosis, influenza and polio. The population of the entire county was 114,700.
By the mid-1970s, the burgeoning rate of growth and development was continuing. High-rise buildings started to dot the waterfront, expansion was to the west with new communities and malls replacing the city center. Interstate 95 was completed connecting Palm Beach Gardens to Miami. Growth was through the migration of retirees with an influx of northerners to the Gold Coast of Florida. This burst of retirees would later have an impact on the health and legal issues of elder care. Emerging social problems of domestic violence, gender inequities, civil rights and fair housing sought remedies through the justice system. Social service agencies were replacing churches, neighbors and families. The population now reached 462,875.
Fast forward 30 years and the population of Palm Beach County now exceeds 1.4 million people. Growth and development extends to the four corners of the county. Migration continues and has been expanded by immigration from foreign shores.
Today, Legal Aid Society, renowned for its leadership in responding to our community’s needs, now employs a staff of 120.
We continue to be recognized as a growing and dynamic organization that personalizes the human and social needs within the legal framework.