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Obituary

Man whose home was burned in '96 disturbances dies

Brain cancer claims Rubar Magwood, 73, whose St. Petersburg house got caught in the violence that erupted after a police shooting.

By CRAIG BASSE, Times Obituaries Editor
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 13, 2003


ST. PETERSBURG -- On the night of the 1996 disturbances, flames swallowed the home of Rubar Magwood.

Everything in it was lost. His home was the only owner-occupied residence detroyed in the disturbances.

Mr. Magwood became a cause celebre when news cameras captured him weeping outside his burning home.

Though small and in need of repair, the house was cluttered with good memories. Saving nickel tips and his small salary, he bought it in 1966. He and his wife raised their children there.

Mr. Magwood, 73, died Tuesday (March 11, 2003) at Hospice House Woodside, Pinellas Park. The cause was brain cancer, his daughter said.

Some two years after the disturbances, the Orange Blossom Catering Service dishwasher was handed the keys to a new bungalow at 1128 16th Ave. S.

Through a no-interest loan program offered by the city, he borrowed $63,500 to finance the new house in the 13th Street Heights neighborhood, about six blocks from his former residence on Jewell Street.

A housewarming attracted the mayor, police brass, City Council members, florist deliveries and five carloads of third-graders.

"Mr. Magwood has lived out the expression that the darkest hour is just before the dawn, and the dawn is today," David Fischer, who was then the mayor, said in front of the modest stucco house with teal shutters.

"A lot of people got burned out, but I'm blessed by God to be pushed back up." Mr. Magwood told the gathering. "Thank you, friends. I can live the rest of my life here in peace."

The 1996 disturbances arose after a black motorist was shot by a white St. Petersburg police officer.

Mr. Magwood came here 50 years ago from his native Elba, Ala. He worked for Orange Blossom Catering Service for 40 years.

His wife, Idella, died in 1981. Survivors include two sons, Rudolph "Rudy," Pinellas Park, and Elijah Mays, Miami; a daughter, Judy Manigault, St. Petersburg; two brothers, Raymond and Moses, both of Enterprise, Ala.; three sisters, Mable Townsend, Daisy Magwood and Catherine Tanner, all of Enterprise; and four grandchildren.

Friends may call from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday at Smith Funeral Home, 1534 18th Ave. S.

A funeral will be at noon Saturday at Grand Central Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, 1401 18th Ave. S, where he was a member. Burial will be at Royal Palm Cemetery South.

-- Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

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