Monday, May 21, 2018
News Roundup

DAR cleans, puts flags at cemetery where 6,000 African-Americans are buried

GULFPORT — Cindy Weatherby crouched, leaned over the gray granite headstone and shook her head.

"Now see, this is what really bothers me," Weatherby said as she brushed away dirt and brown grass to reveal the full name of the man buried there: Pvt. James Walker. U.S. Army. World War II, died April 26, 1959 at the age of 31.

"Think about this man going to war and fighting for a country where he wasn't equal," said Weatherby, regent for the Princess Hirrhigua Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. "It's a terrible testament to our country's history."

Walker is one of about 6,000 African-Americans buried in historic Lincoln Cemetery, a 9-acre tract of land on 58th Street between the Pinellas Trail and the ball fields at Boca Ciega High School. Dating to 1926, the privately owned cemetery is the final resting place for generations of African-Americans — many of them veterans — and for decades has suffered from neglect.

In the last few years, volunteers have taken the problem into their own gloved hands, pulling weeds, hauling out tree limbs and collecting trash to bring back some dignity to the place.

On Saturday, it was DAR's turn. Weatherby, a professional genealogist, had joined previous cleanup efforts and decided her group would sponsor one for Memorial Day. A few dozen volunteers came with trash bags and more than 400 U.S. flags to plant near the graves of veterans.

"There's no sense in complaining about your country if you don't put your hands in to do the dirty work to make a difference," said Austin Graham, a 28-year-old St. Petersburg resident who joined the chapter last month, making her a fourth generation DAR member. "Even if it's something as little as picking up garbage in a cemetery."

•••

Just as the nation has evolved since the concept of a separate cemetery for minorities, so have the Daughters of the American Revolution.

In 1939, the group barred Marian Anderson, a world-famous black contralto, from performing in its Constitution Hall in Washington. The incident prompted Eleanor Roosevelt, then the first lady, to renounce her membership, and DAR was scorned as racist for decades.

Weatherby acknowledges that stain can't be wiped away, but she insists it no longer defines the group. Good deeds and diversity do.

"All we can do," she said, "is move forward and do the right thing."

Anyone can join if they prove lineal descent from someone who fought or aided the Revolutionary War effort. Several of the Princess Hirrhigua Chapter's 56 members are black, Weatherby said.

DAR's history wasn't on the mind of Jill Buggs when she showed up Saturday. The 63-year-old St. Petersburg resident heard about the cleanup and decided to help while visiting her mother, Mary Lou, who was buried in Lincoln after she died in 1993 at the age of 69.

Buggs' sister and brother are there, too, but she doesn't know where. Many grave markers are completely covered by grass.

"I think it's time that somebody takes control and takes charge of the records so families can find their loved ones," Buggs said.

•••

That might happen soon, said St. Petersburg City Council member Wengay Newton.

Newton's mother, Susie Mae, is buried in Lincoln, so the cemetery has become a personal mission. He said the cemetery's owner, Sarlie McKinnon III, has verbally agreed to hand over the property to a nonprofit organization run by Pastor Clarence Williams of St. Petersburg. Newton said Williams recently presided over a funeral and was dismayed by its condition.

McKinnon III, whose family is buried at the cemetery, agreed in 2009 to take over its maintenance from the late Susan Alford and her son, Richard. The Alfords transferred the burial ground that had been in their family for decades, its maps, records and $109,000 from a "perpetual-care fund" to McKinnon. After initial work, he soon ran out of money.

Once McKinnon hands over the records and ownership, a nonprofit can work to locate graves, undertake a full-scale rehabilitation of the property and do regular maintenance, Newton said.

"We have an army of volunteers ready to go," he said.

By 11 a.m., sweat-drenched volunteers took refuge in the shade of a giant oak and relished a light breeze that made the American flags flutter.

DAR member June Bedford sensed something under her white Rockport sneakers. Bedford, 70, of St. Petersburg used a rake to claw away grass and dirt from a flat, rectangular marker. The stone featured hand-laid bits of colorful tile that spelled out a name: Charlie Jackson.

It was hard to make out the years of Jackson's birth and death, but his final resting place was a secret no more.

Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

Comments
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning one win from Stanley Cup final

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning one win from Stanley Cup final

The Lightning plays in Washington tonight with a chance to close out the series and advance to the Stanley Cup final. Tom Jones joins Rick Stroud to talk about the game and why Andrei Vasilevskiy and the defense is playing so well.Plus, the...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Neighbors renew objections to altered New Port Richey homeless plan

Neighbors renew objections to altered New Port Richey homeless plan

NEW PORT RICHEY – The audience was color coded. Neighbors opposing a family homeless shelter and service center wore red T-shirts. Advocates who believed the proposal had become too diluted and benefitted the wrong people dressed in lavender or purpl...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Lightning watch party tonight for Game 6

Lightning watch party tonight for Game 6

Tampa Bay Lightning fans can gather to witness the team's possible clinching of a Stanley Cup final berth tonight in downtown Tampa.The watch party for Game 6 in Washington starts at 6 p.m. at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.It will include three screen...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
New Port Richey man charged with sexual battery of 10-year-old

New Port Richey man charged with sexual battery of 10-year-old

PORT RICHEY — A New Port Richey man accused of sexually battering a 10-year-old girl last year was arrested Friday, according the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. Elias Barreiro, 23, was charged with sexual battery on a child under 12, deputies said. T...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Willie Taggart will take more fourth-down chances than Jimbo Fisher. But how many more?

Willie Taggart will take more fourth-down chances than Jimbo Fisher. But how many more?

TAMPA — Florida State coach Willie Taggart fielded an interesting question near the end of his Q&A with fans during Sunday's booster stop at Armature Works.Are the Seminoles going to be going for it more on fourth down?"We will be goin...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Athlon: Florida Gators, FSU and Miami will all finish in top 20

Athlon: Florida Gators, FSU and Miami will all finish in top 20

One of the first big nuggets from preseason college football magazines is out: Athlon's top 25.The site considers its rankings a prediction of where teams will be at the end of the year, not the beginning.Alabama and Clemson are 1-2 (no shock). Miami...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Porn actor accused of shooting up Trump hotel appears in court and immediately admits to a crime

Porn actor accused of shooting up Trump hotel appears in court and immediately admits to a crime

Jonathan Oddi, the stripper and porn actor who stormed the Trump National Doral resort and got into a gunfight with police, won’t be getting out of jail anytime soon.A Miami-Dade judge on Monday morning ordered the 42-year-old Oddi held without bond....
Updated: 1 hour ago
GasBuddy predicts plunge in summer travel, blames gas prices

GasBuddy predicts plunge in summer travel, blames gas prices

At least one gas price tracker expects rising fuel prices to sharply curtail summer travel. In a recent survey by GasBuddy.com, just 58 percent of motorists surveyed said they would take a road trip this summer, down 24 percent from last year. Just u...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Forecasters monitoring system in Caribbean as rain brings river flooding to Tampa Bay

Forecasters monitoring system in Caribbean as rain brings river flooding to Tampa Bay

More tropical showers and thunderstorms could be headed to Tampa Bay as a low pressure system that is developing in Western Caribbean waters is expected to track up through the Gulf of Mexico, promising more rain for an already soggy region. Much lik...
Updated: 1 hour ago