History will live in school's shadow

As the new Gibbs High is dedicated, alumni will honor the old one and the legacy it built.

Published August 9, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - The new Gibbs High School looms like a cathedral along 34th Street S.

At 300,000 square feet and a price tag of nearly $50-million, it is the largest, most expensive school the county district ever has built.

But in welcoming the new, Gibbs alumni want to honor memories of the old, original school that stood for more than 70 years at 850 34th St. S. They want to be sure its meaning as a community cornerstone during the segregation era is preserved.

The new school will be dedicated Oct. 22, an alumni committee decided Monday,

History in the form of the spoken word, music, video and a sculpture of the old school in miniature will be a big part of the program.

Plans call for former principals to be recognized and old photographs to be displayed in a "flash" presentation set to music. The Alumni Singers, a widely recognized choral group whose roots are at Gibbs, will perform.

A 4 p.m. ceremony is planned in the school's gym/auditorium.

Memorabilia still is being sought, as are the names of out-of-town alumni and former teachers and principals, who will be sent invitations. Call Barbara Shorter, (727) 867-1717, or Minson Rubin, (727) 866-2651.

Its principals, teachers and coaches emphasized loyalty, pride in community, achievement and academic excellence, alumni recall.

The school, which opened in 1927, is named for Jonathan C. Gibbs, Florida's African-American superintendent of public instruction and later secretary of state during Reconstruction.

It served as St. Petersburg's only all-black high school and was one of two that served African-Americans in Pinellas County until court-ordered integration took effect in 1971.

School Board member Mary Brown, who attended Monday's meeting, would like the school to teach the Gibbs High School story and its cultural meaning on a regular basis.

Students, said Brown, should "know what Gibbs represents, what it's all about. I just think they need to know."

Such knowledge would benefit today's students, Brown said.

"It sets a tone as far as expectations," she said.