At the time of his death in 1943, George Washington Carver had some 18 schools named after him. One was at 1142 W Laurel St., in the Tampa neighborhood now known as West Riverfront.
Carver is hailed as one of the leading agriculturists of all time. He revolutionized agriculture in the South by encouraging farmers to plant peanuts, sweet potatoes and pecans instead just cotton. He also developed an array of products from these crops, such as instant coffee, soap, ink and shoe blacking.
Carver was born around 1859, the son of slaves who worked on a farm near Diamond Grove, Mo. As an infant, he and his mother were stolen by raiders. Carver's master supposedly bought him with a race horse, but Carver was never reunited with his mother.
As a youth, Carver showed great interest in plants and rocks. He became an authority on the growth patterns of plants, earning the nickname, "the plant doctor." He studied art at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, and paid his way by cooking, doing laundry and working as a janitor. In 1894, he graduated from Iowa State College, where he was named assistant botanist.
As head of the school's greenhouse, he developed a fungus collection that grew to more than 20,000 species and brought him recognition. In 1896, he accepted an invitation from Booker T. Washington to join the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
In 1916, Carver became one of few Americans accepted into the Royal Society of the Arts in London. In 1935, he became a collaborator in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Industry.
Two years after his death, Congress established Jan. 5 as George Washington Carver Day. A portion of the farm where Carver was born was converted into the George Washington Carver National Monument in 1951.
Built around the turn of the 20th Century, Carver's namesake school in Tampa served as an elementary, middle and high school for the black community. In 1997, it became the Carver Exceptional Center for students with emotional and learning problems.
- Source: Hillsborough County school system, World Book Encyclopedia.