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Bealsville reverence; endorsing everybody

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 24, 2002

When Sam Horton speaks of his hometown, you can hear the reverence.

"When you grew up in Bealsville, you expected to be somebody, you expected to do something," said Horton, a longtime Hillsborough schools administrator, who is now president of the Hillsborough chapter of the NAACP.

The reverence for Bealsville has been echoed by everyone Patrick Dowling has interviewed for a documentary on the east Hillsborough community, one of the first local black settlements.

Dowling, a producer for the county's government access channel, is chronicling the history of Bealsville, which straddles State Road 60 east of Valrico and south of Plant City.

Bealsville was settled shortly after the Civil War by 12 former slaves. It was first known as Little Alafia, but eventually was named after Alfred Beal, the son of one of the original slaves.

It was a tight-knit community built on three principles: farming, religion and education. Glover School, built in the 1930s, is now a national landmark and will be converted into a community center.

Dowling once worked as a St. Petersburg Times sports correspondent but I don't recall his speaking with such passion about Hillsborough High football games.

"When people ask me what's Bealsville like, I say, 'Ever heard of Rosewood? Think of what Rosewood would have been like if everyone had lived.' "

The documentary is set to air in September.

Word is architect Rafael Vinoly will seriously consider some of the 150 e-mail suggestions he received about his design for the new Tampa Museum of Art.

Vinoly is in the final stage of refining his "urban canopy," the giant steel trellis he wants to put over the museum and its surroundings.

He is taking everything into consideration, said Mayor Dick Greco. "He listens."

The changes won't be drastic, and we should look for an updated design to be revealed in late September or early October.

I say put a couple of minarets on top of the whole thing.

For Democrats voting on the District 1 County Commission race, there are no easy choices in the upcoming primary.

From all accounts, Kathy Castor, John Dingfelder and Mimi Osiason are capable candidates, and the difficult choice is underscored by the primary recommendations of the Compass Project.

The local nonpartisan group recommended all three candidates. It also recommended both Jim Davison and Denise "Dee" Layne in the District 2 Republican race.

Every candidate receiving a "yes" vote from at least two-thirds of the steering committee members was recommended.

While I applaud the Compass Project's efforts in creating forums and debates to enrich the political process, making single recommendations would make the group's endorsements more coveted, and give the group greater influence.

In a nutshell, get off the fence.

I can just hear USF president Judy Genshaft doing a Humphrey Bogart imitation: "Of all the universities in all the towns in all the world, Sami Al-Arian had to work at mine."

A sincere thank you to the throngs who showed up at the Jan Platt Library for the Meet Ernest Hooper forum Thursday night.

Although 150 people had to be turned away at the door, I thought the event went well.

Okay, maybe there weren't that many people, but those who did attend honored and inspired me. I feel a little more pressured knowing that people actually are reading my ramblings.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or

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