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High praise comes from high places for educator

Crist calls his school principal a "beacon of hope."

Published May 20, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - The former students lined up to say thanks to Vyrle Davis, a longtime teacher and school administrator.

With his help, they had become doctors, nurses, engineers and lawyers.

One student, the St. Petersburg High School senior class president of 1974, even became governor.

A group of 300 that included Gov. Charlie Crist paid tribute to Davis Saturday night, honoring the former St. Petersburg High School principal for a nearly 50-year commitment to education.

Davis took over at St. Petersburg High as Crist was starting his senior year.

The two have remained close ever since.

"Mr. Davis is a great beacon of hope and light and integrity, and all the things that are right in the world," Crist said Saturday at the ballroom at the downtown Hilton St. Petersburg. "If you got him as a friend, you have a friend for life."

Davis, 73, served as the principal at St. Petersburg High from 1973 to 1983 before taking an administrative job with the Pinellas County School District.

He retired in 1995, but not before leaving behind a legacy of giving.

In 1984, Davis founded the Ebony Scholars Program, which provides institutional and economic support to high-achieving African-American students.

Nearly 225 scholarships have been awarded to area African-American high school seniors as a result.

"Vyrle could not keep track of the lives he has affected in this community, but we know there are many," said Reginald Roundtree, a news anchor at WTSP-Ch. 10 for whom Davis was a mentor. "Vyrle touched my life."

Davis is also credited with helping black political causes through his creation of the African American Voter Research and Education Committee.

He pushed for single-member political districts for both the Pinellas County School Board and County Commission, and helped elect Mary Brown, the county's first black elected School Board member.

Davis is "a man who has worn and continues to wear many hats in this community," said Inez McRae, chairwoman of the Friends of Vyrle Davis programming committee, which put on the tribute.

Friends and colleagues said he also has a knack for not taking no for an answer.

"His leadership," said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, "is unsurpassed."

[Last modified May 20, 2007, 07:16:12]

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