Lee R. Benjamin served many roles in the Pinellas public school system, from teacher and coach to School Board member. Now he will be honored at the school where he launched his long career — Northeast High.
The school's gymnasium will be renamed the Lee Benjamin Athletic Center in a reception and dedication ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Benjamin, 86, will attend, as will several local officials, including St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and superintendent Mike Grego.
When Northeast opened in 1954, Benjamin was the school's first basketball coach. He worked at Northeast for the next 20 years as a teacher and coach before becoming assistant principal, then principal.
In the early 1970s, he led the school through the first years of the district's racial desegregation plan.
Benjamin already was a well-known figure in the district when he was appointed as an area superintendent in 1974. He served in that job until his retirement in 1986.
He re-emerged in 1990, winning a seat on the Pinellas County School Board, the first of four terms.
Fellow board members elected him chairman four times during that stretch. In 2004, at age 77, he ran for a fifth term but was defeated by current board member Janet Clark.
Benjamin holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Florida State University, and an honorary doctorate from the University of South Florida.
The public is invited to attend the dedication, which will be held on the grounds of Northeast High, 5500 16th St. N in St. Petersburg.