Can You Use Someone’s Name?

(WSVN) - His name is etched in the history of South Florida. Arthur McDuffie, killed by four police officers, which sparked days of deadly riots, and now, his family is stunned to find out his name is being used to start a corporation and open a center. Can someone use your family member’s name? It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When you hear her last name, if you are from South Florida, you probably recognize it.

Dewana McDuffie, father’s name being used: “All the time they ask, ‘Who are you?’ ‘Do you know of him?’ And I just politely say, ‘Yes, I was his daughter.'”

She is Dewana McDuffie. Her father is Arthur Lee McDuffie.

Dewana McDuffie: “He was brutally beaten to death.”

In 1980, four Miami Police officers went on trial after they were accused of beating Arthur McDuffie to death.

All four were found not guilty.

Outraged residents exploded, riots tore Miami apart and 18 people were killed as parts of the city were set on fire.

McDuffie left behind his wife and three children.

Dewana McDuffie: “Eighteen months, yes, I was extremely young.”

McDuffie is gone, but what happened to him and Miami has never been forgotten.

Then, this year, Dewana read a press release.

Dewana McDuffie: “A press release from Barry University that the Arthur Lee McDuffie Center for Racial Justice would be on their campus temporarily.”

The creation of the center in her father’s name stunned Dewana and her family.

Dewana McDuffie: “Disrespectful, disheartening, the family is very upset.”

Upset, Dewana says, because she had no idea her father’s name was being used to create the center.

Dewana McDuffie: “No one has contacted no one in our family. None of the children of Arthur Lee McDuffie has been contacted.”

Further aggravating the family, the same group created a webpage and a corporation called The Arthur Lee McDuffie Center for Racial Justice.

Dewana McDuffie: “They own a business in my father’s name, yes.”

The center and the corporation were created by Dr. Marvin Dunn, a well respected civil rights advocate. But…

Dewana McDuffie: “Never spoken to Marvin Dunn, never.”

Dewana says if the family had been asked, they might have granted permission to use her father’s name, but now, no.

Dewana McDuffie: “I would like to see my father’s name removed from that center.”

Well, first, Howard, can someone create a center and a corporation in a family member’s name?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “This may really surprise you. You or your heirs own your name, and it cannot be used for commercial purposes without the family’s consent, but here is the surprise. Florida has what’s called a statute of repose, meaning 40 years after the death, the name can be used without the family’s consent. Arthur McDuffie died 42 years ago, so anyone can use his name now.”

I spoke to Dr. Marvin Dunn. He called Arthur McDuffie a historic figure in Miami and said it never occurred to him the family would be bothered that the center was in his name.

After he spoke to Dewana, he did as the family wanted, and the McDuffie name was removed.

It’s now called the Miami Center for Racial Justice.

Dunn also said the changes were being made to the corporate name, as well.

Dewana McDuffie: “I am more than happy. I would like families to know that Help Me Howard can help you resolve any situation that you need to get fixed.”

And Dewana now wants to make sure no one uses Arthur McDuffie’s name again without the family’s permission.

Dewana McDuffie: “I want to trademark my father’s name, so if anybody wants to use his name, they must gain permission from my siblings and I first.”

That might work, and think about how Arthur McDuffie’s children feel. Imagine if you woke up and someone had registered a corporation or created a business or non-profit in your mother or father’s name.

It’s gotta be aggravating, and thank goodness this one got resolved quickly.

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Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
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