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Banquet will honor educator

Published May 16, 2007


When Vyrle Davis began his Pinellas County teaching career in 1960 at 16th Street Junior High, teachers were expected to raise $25 to pay for basic supplies like pencils and paper.

It was a common practice for black teachers during the segregation era, when Davis started in education.

When he retired in 1995, he was serving as one of the highest ranked administrators in the school system. Rather than go quietly to the easy chair, Davis embarked on a second career as a community activist while continuing his advocacy for young people.

Friends and colleagues are honoring Davis on Saturday at a 6 p.m. banquet at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, 333 First St. S.

Gov. Charlie Crist, who attended St. Petersburg High when Davis was principal, is expected to attend.

Davis, 73, reminisced this week, at times emotionally, as he looked back on his dual careers.

"There were some great years, and some good kids, " he said. "I just look back over my career and I'm so happy things have been done. And people have been so good to me."

David Welch, himself a community leader and former City Council member, has known Davis, a Tampa native, all his life. They still lunch together frequently at places like Munch's and the Ballet Cafe.

"Energetic and committed, " Welch said of his friend.

But he has another side, said Doris Swangles, a political activist who, with Davis and others, founded the African-American Voters Research and Education Committee.

"I found him to be a very kind person, " Swangles said. "There was a time after an AAVREC meeting when I had trouble with my car. It was the battery. He brought jump cords. That was a part of him I hadn't seen or expected."

Davis has served as the group's co-chair during most of its existence.

Perhaps his proudest moments, though, involve organizing groups to help youngsters: Ebony Scholars and 500 Role Models for Excellence, for example.

"He's done a lot of super things for the school system and for the community, " said Bob Safransky, a former colleague. "He's done a lot to help make St. Petersburg a better place for everybody to live."

Another thing about Davis people don't generally know: His first name is Phoenix.

Davis roared with laughter when a reporter told him he had learned that fact.

"That's supposed to be a secret, " he said.

"(Channel 10 news anchor) Reginald Roundtree is the emcee Saturday, " Davis said. "He'll be having fun with that."


Career highlights

1960: Married Mozell Reese, began teaching at 16th Street Elementary and Junior High School (now John Hopkins Middle School.)

1971-73: Assistant principal, Gibbs High School.

1973-83: Principal, St. Petersburg High School.

1983-86: Operations director, Pinellas County schools.

1984: Founded Ebony Scholars motivational program.

1991: Founded Ebony Scholars Academic Club

1986-1995: Area school superintendent.

1996: Co-founded African-American Voters Registration and Education Committee.

1998: Founded Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students.

[Last modified May 15, 2007, 21:08:15]

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