Remembering the Historic William S. Stevens School

In the early morning hours of Sunday, March 26, 2017, Florida lost a piece of its tangible history after the historic Stevens School in Quincy caught fire and burned. Join us as we delve into the Archives for a brief look back at the history of this community fixture which stood near Live Oak and Cooper streets for nearly 90 years.

Stevens High School building in Quincy, Florida, built 1929.

Stevens High School building in Quincy, Florida, built 1929.

Originally known as the Dunbar School, the school first opened to grades 1-12 in the early twentieth century. With funding for black education scarce in the Jim Crow South, the African-American community in Quincy received a contribution from the Rosenwald Fund to build the school. Illinois-based philanthropist and part-owner of Sears, Roebuck and Company, Julius Rosenwald, headed the organization. His concentrated largess helped build schools for African-Americans all over the segregated South, including dozens in Florida.

Dunbar High School class portrait, ca. 1928.

Dunbar High School class portrait, ca. 1928.

Dunbar High School football team, ca. 1910.

Dunbar High School football team, ca. 1910.

Dunbar soon caught the attention of the ambitious Dr. William Spencer Stevens, who saw potential in expanding the school. Born in Tallahassee in 1882, Stevens attended Florida State Normal and Industrial College before graduating from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. After medical school, Stevens moved to Quincy where he made history as the first African-American doctor to open his own medical practice in the area. Additionally, he operated a community hospital for blacks as well as a drug store.

Portrait of Dr. William Spencer Stevens, ca. 1906.

Portrait of Dr. William Spencer Stevens, ca. 1906. Stevens served as city school supervisor from 1914 until his death in 1949.

Wedding portrait of Dr. and Mrs. W.S. Stevens. Order unknown, included in the photograph are Mrs. W.S. Stevens, Dr. William Spencer Stevens, Mrs. Maggie Stevens, and Mrs. Maggie Proctor.

Wedding portrait of Dr. and Mrs. W.S. Stevens on February 8, 1910. Order unknown, included in the photograph are Mrs. W.S. Stevens, Dr. William Spencer Stevens, Mrs. Maggie Stevens, and Mrs. Maggie Proctor.

In 1914, the doctor’s good standing in the community earned him the title of Supervisor of the Quincy City Schools. In this role, he sought to enlarge the reach of Dunbar High School and oversaw a four-year improvement project in the late 1920s.  Locals were so pleased with Stevens’ work to install new classrooms and an auditorium in the building, that they voted to change the school’s name in his honor. According to an article printed in the September 19, 1929 edition of the Gadsden County newspaper, the new William Stevens High School building opened with a reported enrollment of 450 students.

Stevens High School faculty, ca. 1940.

Stevens High School faculty, ca. 1940.

Stevens High School continued to serve Quincy’s black students until 1955, when the school board replaced it and moved the students and faculty into the new  Carter-Parramore High School building. In 1970, during a push to integrate segregated schools, the school board shut Carter-Parramore as a secondary school and repurposed it as a middle school.

The original Stevens High School plant most recently housed an African Artifact and Cultural Museum. It was operated by Quincy native and civil rights activist, Priscilla Stephens Kruize. WCTV’s Lanetra Bennett reported that over one million dollars worth of historic material was lost in the blaze. The Florida Division of Historical Resources had also recommended that the historic building receive grant funding for restorations this year.

 

Remembering Astronaut John Glenn

Today the State Archives of Florida remembers John Glenn. Glenn passed away on December 8th, 2016 at the age of 95.

John Glenn in Tallahassee (February 15, 1984).

John Glenn in Tallahassee (February 15, 1984).

Glenn led a remarkable life full of accomplishment. After serving as a highly decorated Marine Corps pilot in WWII and Korea, he set the transcontinental flight speed record in 1957. Glenn set further records after joining the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a test pilot in 1959. During his time at NASA, Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth in 1962 and the oldest person to travel to space when he returned with the Space Shuttle program in 1998, at the age of 77. Glenn also served from 1977 to 1999 as United States Senator for his home state of Ohio.

A parade welcoming astronaut John Glenn at Cocoa Beach after he became the first American to orbit the Earth (February 23, 1962).

A parade welcoming astronaut John Glenn at Cocoa Beach after he became the first American to orbit the Earth (February 23, 1962).

Glenn and his fellow Project Mercury astronauts, the “Original Seven,” were the United States’ best hope against the Soviet Union in the space race. The group of test pilots accomplished many firsts from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, including the first American in space (Alan Shepard) and John Glenn’s monumental trip around the Earth.

The Original Seven Mercury astronauts with a U.S. Air Force F-106B jet aircraft. Glenn is third from the left.

The Original Seven Project Mercury astronauts with a U.S. Air Force F-106B jet aircraft. Glenn is third from the left.

The achievements of Glenn and his fellow pioneers bolstered American interest in NASA and space exploration. Their work propelled NASA through the Apollo program, the Moon landing, and the Space Shuttle program, cementing the place of space exploration in the minds of young Americans for years to come.

Remembering Former Florida University Chancellor Charlie Reed

Charles Bass Reed, who served as Chancellor of Florida’s university system from 1985-1998, died Tuesday, December 6. He was 75 years old.

Chancellor of the Florida Board of Regents Charles B. Reed, ca. 1985.

Chancellor of the Florida Board of Regents Charles B. Reed, ca. 1985.

Known to most as Charlie, Reed was born in 1941 and grew up in the working-class coal mining town of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh. As one of  eight children, Reed’s father told him early on that he either “needed to get a scholarship and go to college,” or get a local job.  The high school football star chose the former after George Washington University offered him a football scholarship. Many years later, the top education official reminisced with Tampa Tribune columnist Tim McEwan about his glory days on the college football field: “I played against the Gators in Ray Graves’ first coaching job at Jacksonville. We played them good, and lost 12-6. I can still remember how it was…. And I played against Bill Peterson’s Florida State Seminoles and we got beat.”

Despite a demanding football schedule, Reed graduated on time with a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education. “I understand athletics. I know what they can do for the individual, for the student body and the school,” Reed explained. He would later apply his experiences with college-level athletics to his job as university chancellor, imposing stricter academic standards for college athletes to maintain their scholarships—much to the chagrin of some football coaches. He defended the introduction of these policies, telling the Miami Herald in 1989,  “I know what it means to be offered an opportunity, and I know what it takes to earn it.”

After completing his undergraduate studies, the ambitious young Reed went on to receive both a master’s and doctorate in education from George Washington University, where he served as a faculty member from 1963 to 1970. He then worked for the National Association of Colleges for Teacher Education before moving to Florida in the early 1970s. From 1971 to 1979, Dr. Reed was employed by the Florida Department of Education, where he served as the Director of the Office of Educational Planning, Budgeting, and Evaluation. After Governor Bob Graham took office in 1979, he appointed Reed as his Deputy Chief of Staff. The Pennsylvania native served in that position from 1981 until 1984.

Education Commissioner Betty Castor (left), and Chancellor Charles Reed (center), listen to the comments of former House Speaker Lee Moffitt (right) outside of the Florida Capitol Complex, 1987.

Education Commissioner Betty Castor (left) and Chancellor Charles Reed (center), listen to the comments of former House Speaker Lee Moffitt (right) outside of the Florida Capitol Complex during University of South Florida Day, 1987.

In August 1985, Reed became the chancellor of the Board of Regents, which at the time oversaw the operations of Florida’s nine universities. A tenth university campus, Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, opened during Reed’s tenure. At the helm of higher education policy in Florida, Reed was known for his strong work ethic and effective lobbying skills. “He has contacts, he has leadership…. He’s just a hell of a worker,” praised DuBose Ausley, longtime chair of the Board of Regents.

Reed’s leadership skills helped to significantly expand enrollment numbers, reputation, and budget of Florida’s universities. He introduced Florida’s prepaid college program and routinely advocated to expand equal access to higher education. Before leaving Florida in 1998 to take a position as Chancellor of the California State University System, Charlie Reed sat down with reporters to discuss the accomplishments and failures of higher education in Florida during his 13 years as chancellor. “Probably the single biggest accomplishment was the National Science Foundation decision to move the mag lab from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)” to Florida State University in Tallahassee.

View of the High Magnetic Lab at Florida State University in Tallahassee, 1995. The facility opened in 1994.

View of the High Magnetic Lab at Florida State University in Tallahassee, 1995. The facility opened in 1994.

As for any failures, Reed lamented his inability to get raises for university faculty, citing the realities of legislative budget constraints. Overall, when it came to disappointment, Reed took a page out of his old college football playbook. “[On failure] I don’t think that way. If you participate in athletics you might lose today, but you play a new game tomorrow,” he reconciled. Reed retired from his post in California in 2012.  He is survived by his wife, two children, and five grandchildren.

 

Florida Remembers Janet Reno

Florida native Janet Wood Reno made history when President Bill Clinton appointed her to serve as the first female U.S. Attorney General in 1993. Prior to her work in Washington, Reno had already made waves in Florida after becoming the first woman elected as state attorney in 1978. Janet Reno died at her home early Monday morning. She was 78 years old.

Portrait of Dade County State Attorney Janet Reno, 1978.

Portrait of Dade County State Attorney Janet Reno, 1978.

Born in Miami on July 21, 1938 to journalists Jane Wood and Henry Reno, Janet Reno grew up surrounded by intellectual stimuli.  When thirteen-year-old Janet announced to her mother, an investigative reporter for the now defunct Miami News, that she aspired to attend law school, her mother encouraged her to realize her dreams. “You can do anything, be anything you really want to be, regardless of whether you’re a woman….You want to be a lawyer? You can be a lawyer,” remembered Reno of her mother who died of cancer in 1992.  After graduating from Coral Gables High School in 1956 and Cornell University in 1960, she applied to Harvard Law School.  Upon learning of her daughter’s acceptance to the program, Reno’s mother “whoop[ed] with joy,” explaining that she had always wanted to become a lawyer, too.

Portrait of Janet Reno's father, Miami Herald crime reporter, Henry Olaf Reno, ca.1930. Attorney General Reno greatly admired who father, who immigrated to the United State at age 12 in the 1910s. He became editor of his high school yearbook and went on to enjoy a 42 year career as a journalist in Miami.

Portrait of Janet Reno’s father, Miami Herald crime reporter Henry Olaf Reno, ca.1930. Attorney General Reno greatly admired her father, who immigrated to the United States at age 12 in the 1910s. He became editor of his high school yearbook and went on to enjoy a 42-year career as a journalist in Miami.

In 1963, Janet Reno was one of just 15 women–in a graduating class of 500–to earn a law degree from Harvard. As a young lawyer in the 1960s, Reno overcame several hurdles before rising to political prominence in the 1980s and 90s. She applied for a clerkship with a law firm the summer after graduation, but the firm rejected her application because of her gender. “I felt mad,” admitted Reno. “[I] went and got a job at another law firm. I never let it bother me after that,” said the future U.S. Attorney General, who, fourteen years later, would make partner at the very same law firm that had originally rejected her on account of being female. She briefly served as staff director to the Florida House Judiciary Committee before mounting a failed campaign for a seat in the Legislature in 1972. “The loss was painful,”  according to Reno. But she wasted no time wallowing in defeat, and moved to Tallahassee where she quickly made inroads with the Governor’s Office, serving as assistant state attorney for the Eleventh Judiciary Circuit from 1973-1976. She then went to work in private practice, until Governor Reubin Askew appointed Reno to serve as Dade County State Attorney in 1978, the first woman in Florida to hold that position. In November 1978, Janet Reno won election to the post by a 74-point margin.

Janet Reno taking her oath as Florida's first female state attorney, 1978.

Janet Reno taking her oath as Florida’s first female state attorney, 1978.

As Miami’s senior prosecutor from 1978 to 1993, Reno faced repeated criticisms for her handling of several high-profile racially sensitive cases. Nonetheless, she remained steadfast in her intent to uphold the integrity of the judicial process. “I don’t ever want to be accused of pleasing one group at the expense of justice,” she maintained. Governor Lawton Chiles commended her for showing “great character and courage” as state attorney, and another colleague qualified the heated critiques of Reno noting that “some of the cases were not winnable. She had the courage to go forward with the prosecutions and maybe other prosecutors would not have. I can’t fault her for that.” During her fifteen years representing the Florida metropolis, Janet Reno was never one to stay holed up in her office. She kept her home phone number listed in the city directory, mentored wayward teenagers, and visited schools and women’s shelters with messages of hope and perseverance. On her approach with victims of domestic violence she said: “Despite what these women have been through, you have to show them how not to feel like victims. You try to work with them in every way you possibly can–serve as an example for them, show them they can be somebody, show them what they can do, what their daughters can do.”

Dade County State Attorney, Janet Reno, seated next to Director of Metro Public Safety, Bobby L. Jones during forum entitled

Dade County State Attorney, Janet Reno, seated next to Director of Metro Public Safety, Bobby L. Jones during forum entitled “Perspectives on Race, Crime, and the Criminal Justice System” held at Miami-Dade Community College, 1981. As state attorney, Reno unsuccessfully prosecuted four white police officers in the 1980 beating death of black insurance agent, Arthur McDuffie. The acquittal sparked outrage among Miami’s black community. Reno responded to this and other racial tensions by meeting with the community, speaking at schools, and opening her office to speak with blacks and Latinos.

Her grassroots approach in Miami caught the attention of the incoming presidential administration of Bill Clinton, who nominated Reno for appointment as the first female U.S. Attorney General in 1993. “Janet Reno is far and away the best candidate for this job that President Clinton could have nominated,” remarked Florida Senator Bob Graham.  After recounting the story of how her late mother built their family home brick by brick, Reno translated the family story into a folksy testimony of how she planned to approach the impending office. “… [T]hat house stands as a symbol to me, that you can do anything you really want to, if it’s the right thing to do and you put your mind to it,” she told the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee confirmed her appointment as U.S. Attorney General in March 1993.

Portrait of U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, 1993. Reno was inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame in 1993.

Portrait of U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, 1993. Reno was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.

The newly-appointed attorney general attracted heavy media buzz during her first month in office, a phenomenon many referred to as “Reno-mania.” However, the six-foot one-inch tall,  U.S. Attorney General, who described herself as a “54 year old awkward maid [with] a messy house,” rejected the fanfare of high-profile political life. She remained focused instead on the great responsibility of being “the people’s lawyer.” Reno refused to engage the suggestion that she only got the job because she was a woman, looking forward instead: “I don’t know whether that’s the case or not, but having been offered it [U.S. Attorney General] I’m going to do the best I can.” Early on in her tenure, Reno envisioned a legacy  tied to creating “equal opportunity for all the children of America” and doing everything she could to “put the families first.” Her platform included a sensible stance on crime, working with health and education officials to reduce juvenile crime, protecting the environment by enforcing anti-pollution laws, and upholding civil rights. Despite an ambitious, reform-minded agenda, the attorney general inevitably found herself at the center of numerous federal controversies. But Reno’s unprecedented willingness to assume responsibility for her decisions, whether perceived rights or wrongs, endeared her to many constituents. “I made the decision. I’m accountable. The buck stops with me,” she famously remarked after her regrettable decision to allow federal intervention of the Branch Davidian Complex in Waco, Texas in 1993 led to the deaths of dozens of people. “That was the hardest decision I ever had to make. I will live with it for the rest of my life,” conceded Reno. Though Janet Reno’s time in federal office was certainly not without indiscretion, many Americans found her honesty and candid delivery refreshing.  Reno served as U.S. Attorney General until 2001, earning the additional honorarium of longest serving attorney general of the twentieth century.

Janet Reno (left) poses for picture with first female president of the Florida Bar Patricia A. Seitz (center) and first female Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court,Rosemary Barkett in commemoration of Seitz's historic installation, 1993.

Janet Reno (left) poses for picture with first female president of the Florida Bar Patricia A. Seitz (center) and first female Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court,Rosemary Barkett in commemoration of Seitz’s historic installation, 1993.

Upon returning to Florida, she put in a bid for the 2002 Florida gubernatorial race, but lost the primary to Democratic opponent Bill McBride, and subsequently retired from political life. During the last decade of her life, Janet Reno enjoyed a quiet life in the Florida Everglades. “I don’t think I’m a gregarious person, in the sense of having a lot of casual friends. I have a few people I am very close to,” she explained to a reporter soon after winning the state attorney race in 1978. On November 7, 2016, Janet Reno, the trailblazing lawyer with the impeccable integrity, died in her home, surrounded by her closest family and friends.

Ralph Stanley Dies at 89

Banjo player and vocalist Ralph Stanley was a master of what he described as the “old-time mountain style” found in the ridges and valleys of his home on the Virginia-Kentucky border.  His high clarion tenor was iconic in traditional mountain music and modern bluegrass alike.  He died at his home in Sandy Ridge, Virginia on Thursday at the age of 89.

Stanley Brothers and Clinch Mountain Boys performing at the 1959 Florida Folk Festival- White Springs, Florida

Ralph Stanley (banjo) with Carter Stanley (guitar) at the 1959 Florida Folk Festival

Stanley was born in Dickenson County, located in Southwest Virginia, on February 25, 1927, absorbing the sentimental folk songs of the Carter Family right along with the doleful hymns of the Primitive Baptist Universalist congregation he grew up with.  After receiving his first banjo as a teenager, his mother taught him the claw-hammer style she had learned in her youth.  By the age of 19, Stanley had formed the Clinch Mountain Boys with his brother, Carter, which remained active for two decades.

During that time, the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys found success arranging blues, ballads, hymns and breakdowns to feature their fraternally tight vocal harmonies and expressive musicianship in a style that, while often associated with bluegrass, featured little of the bombastic virtuosity and jazz-inflected melodies of popular bluegrass groups like Flatt and Scruggs or Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys.

On November 8, 1958, nearing the height of their popularity, the Stanley Brothers headlined the Suwannee River Jamboree, a weekly radio program in Live Oak, Florida.  Their performance of Stanley’s original composition “Gonna Paint the Town” from a half-hour segment of the program syndicated to nearby radio stations can be found in the Florida Folklife Collection (S1576, T85-66):

After his brother’s death in 1966, Stanley began to focus more on the traditional ballads of his Appalachian home, shying further away from any bluegrass leanings his brother had.  His contributions to country music were recognized over the course of his career with inductions into both the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor and the Grand Ole Opry, an honorary Doctorate of Music from Lincoln Memorial University, Congressional recognition in the form of the Living Legend Award and a National Medal of Arts, as well as a Grammy Award for his performance of “O Death” in the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?

“Dr. Ralph,” as he was known in his later years, never wavered in his commitment to the penetrating and powerfully unpretentious roots of old-time mountain music, thus insuring his place in the pantheon of American roots music.