Jacksonville native W.C. Gentry is a Board Certified Trial Lawyer who has handled some of Florida’s most high-profile cases involving public health, safety and education. One of the highlights of his professional life was successfully representing the State Of Florida against the Tobacco Industry, culminating in a multi-billion-dollar settlement and major public health benefits.
In a career spanning more than 40 years, Gentry has also had the opportunity to help move the needle on community issues. He played a key role in establishing Jacksonville’s first Ethics Commission and led Mayor Tommy Hazouri’s campaign to eliminate the city’s odor problem.
While he still practices law, Gentry has increasingly devoted his energy to civic involvement in recent years, with a particular focus on education. The former teacher and coach served as Education Chair of The Jacksonville Journey, Mayor John Peyton’s community-wide anti-crime initiative, and also chaired the Florida Council on Education Policy, Research & Improvement.
Gentry has served on the board of the Early Learning Coalition of Duval County, of which he is currently vice chair. In 2008, he was elected to a term on the Duval County School Board, which he chaired from 2010-11. Under his leadership, Duval County greatly expanded Pre-K centers in neighborhood schools and leveraged VPK with Title I funding to provide full day Pre-K services. The citywide “Read It Forward Jax” initiative was also launched, providing intensive professional development in literacy to K-3 teachers and literacy training to content teachers and expanding after-school and summer reading programs.
Convinced that literacy – particularly early literacy – is of central importance to solving Duval County’s education problems, Gentry recently founded Read It Forward Jax Coalition, a 501(c)(3) organization designed to engage the community around literacy, build a culture of reading in Jacksonville and align community partners and resources with Duval Schools to maximize local children’s reading proficiency. With members from over 30 leading community organizations, RIFJC represents an unprecedented collaboration aimed at helping Jacksonville’s children realize their full potential.