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On principal achievements, red light rules, a judge's rank

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 13, 2002


Iwas getting a haircut at Esquire Touch in East Tampa on Friday when my barber, Stan, asked proudly, "Did you hear about Shake?"

Shake is Henry "Shake" Washington, and right about now there are a lot of people in East Tampa beaming with pride about one of their own. The school district made Washington the new principal for the new Middleton High School, which opens next fall.

But it's all old-school for Washington.

Back in the days of segregated education, every black child in Tampa was divided by the rivalry between Middleton and Blake (or Blake and Middleton, Yellow Jackets fans would insist). Washington was no different. He grew up in East Tampa and was baptized in Middleton's maroon and gold even before he was old enough to go to high school.

Desegregation closed Middleton and changed the vision for a lot of East Tampa kids.

"I used to go to Phillips Field for the Blake-Middleton game and dream of playing football on that field for Middleton," said Washington, who did get to fulfill that dream and graduate from Middleton. "When (the school) disappeared, those hopes and dreams also disappeared (for the kids in the community)."

"One of the most important things lost when they closed was the feeling of family. All the area was like a family. When it wasn't there anymore, you didn't have anything to grasp. You didn't have the school where your parents or your brothers and sisters went. We lost the unity for a family atmosphere."

Washington, 53, will take over at Middleton after four years as the Chamberlain principal, and he knows the new Middleton won't quite be the same. Two-thirds of the enrollment is slated to be drawn from around the county, thanks to a math/science magnet program.

"But the name will be there and we can bring back some of the memories," Washington said. "Maybe we can make people feel we have a family again."

* * *

You're in the car, running behind. The light turns red -- do you mash the gas pedal and fly through the intersection? The answer should be no, and this week it definitely should be no.

That's because starting today it's "Stop! Red Light Running Week" for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. The program is designed to promote safe driving and reduce traffic light violations with, and I quote, "strict enforcement."

Yikes.

The reason is clear: An estimated 13,000 injuries and 100 fatalities are a result of red-light runners, according to enforcement officials.

* * *

I did a double take when a League of Women Voters flier said Col. Gregory P. Holder will speak Tuesday at the University Club about homeland security. Judge Holder I know of, but Colonel? Yep, he also is a judge in the Air Force Reserve. Reservations to see the colonel have to be made by noon Monday. Call Julie at 744-5519.

* * *

From the did-you-know file: Tampa police do not allow more than two vehicles or three officers to be at a restaurant at the same time unless the officers are working off-duty security.

The policy is in place primarily to avoid giving the appearance that officers favor a particular restaurant. Tampa Police spokesman Joe Durkin said the department also wants to make sure there aren't too many officers taking their meal breaks at the same time.

* * *

Remember Tyrone Keys, the former Chicago Bear and current head of Tampa's All Sports Community service? He lost his Super Bowl ring only to have it returned by magnanimous jewelry store owner Orlando Perara two years later.

Now, with apologies to Paul Harvey, the rest of the story. Turns out Keys' teammate, Walter Payton, also lost his Super Bowl ring.

The late Chicago Bear star spoke to a high school basketball team about trust in 1996 and allowed some of the players to keep his ring overnight as a gesture. Wouldn't you know, a player took the ring home and actually lost it.

Years later, Phil Hong found the ring under a couch he inherited from the family of one of the players. He is returning it to Payton's widow.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com.

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