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Eta Nu Education Foundation Honors Judge Ilona Holmes with James L. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award

Eta Education Foundation, Inc., along with the men of the Eta Nu Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., announced its plans to honor retired Broward County Circuit Court Judge Ilona Holmes as its James L. Jones Lifetime Leadership Award recipient.

Judge Holmes, a long-standing member of the South Florida community, was born in Philadelphia, PA. She graduated from Deerfield Beach High School, attended Stetson University and graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a B.A. in Political Science. She went on to receive her J.D. Degree from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

Judge Holmes was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1982, the Bars of the Southern District Court of Florida (1991), the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (1991) and the United States Supreme Court (2023). She is a former Assistant State Attorney in Miami-Dade County and a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida before she was appointed to the county court bench in 1995 and to the circuit court bench in 1998. Judge Holmes has served in both the civil and criminal divisions of the courts. She served as an Associate Judge on the 4th District Court of Appeals in 2000 and was the first Black judge to serve as an administrative judge in the felony criminal division. She was assigned to the criminal division presiding in the Extended Trial Division (ETD), trying capital murder, sexual battery and robbery cases of persons incarcerated more than 750 days. On December 31, 2018, she retired from the bench as the longest serving Black circuit judge in Broward County’s history.

Beyond Judge Holmes’ legal and judicial career, she is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., (since 1979) and a Life Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) where she serves on the executive committee of the Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Unit. In 2020, Judge Holmes was appointed by the NAACP to the 17th Judicial Circuit Department of Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (CAB). Two years later, she was elected Chair of the CAB. In 2021, Judge Holmes was appointed by the Florida Supreme Court to the Publications Committee. In April 2021, she was appointed to the Federal Judicial Nominating Conference for the Southern District of Florida by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for a term ending in 2024. The members elected her to chair the Conference. In December 2021, the chief of the City of Fort Lauderdale Police Department selected Judge Holmes to serve as a Citizen Advisor on the Police Assessment Panel reviewing applicants for promotions within the department. Also in December 2021, she was appointed to a two (2) year term by the Broward County Commission to serve on the Broward County Police and Criminal Justice Review Board.

Judge Holmes’ leadership and service has led her to serve in several capacities across a plethora of organizations, including: serving as interim President of the University of Fort Lauderdale (2019-2020); a faculty member of the National Center for Justice and the Rule of Law in Oxford, Mississippi, (on the campus of Ole Miss); a three-year term as an at-large member on the Florida Court Education Council (FCEC); former member of the Board of Directors for Jack and Jill Nursery; former member for Board of Directors of DISMAS House Charities; former Board Member for PACE Center for Girls; and she is a charter member of the National Black Prosecutors Association.

In addition to honoring Judge Holmes, Eta Nu will also be announcing and celebrating its Scholar of the Year – a graduating, high school senior who has excelled in their academic studies and will be attending a four year college/university in the Fall.

Each year, Eta Nu recognizes its James L. Jones Lifetime Leadership Award honoree and Scholar of the Year at its annual Benefit Gala & Fundraiser. The James L. Jones Lifetime Leadership Award is named after Eta Nu’s founding charter member, James L. Jones, a retired educator, former principal of Blanche Ely High School and community servant. The award is given to members of the community who have devoted their life to serving others and making impact in disadvantaged and underserved communities. Past recipients have included James L. Jones (himself), George Smith, Coach Johnny Alexander, and Broward County Mayor Lamar Fisher.

The awards and honorees will be celebrated at the annual Eta Nu Education Benefit Gala taking place on Sunday, July 30, 2023 from 4:00pm to 8:00pm at Marriott Coral Springs Hotel, 11775 Heron Bay Blvd., Coral Springs, FL 33076. For more information or tickets, visit

This is a Hy-Lo News Staff Report.

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