Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Volunteers fix up Gulfport cemetery


Lincoln Cemetery is beginning to look like the proud resting place of generations of African-Americans that it is.

High weeds, many growing over headstones, were cut down Saturday by 150 volunteers who answered the call of St. Petersburg City Council member Wengay Newton Sr. to restore dignity to the privately owned cemetery.

Cars and trucks packed the sides of the roadway into the nine-acre cemetery that opened in 1926. The people who spilled out of them — black and white, young and old — were there because, well, because it was the right thing to do.

They weren't dressed in black and carrying tissues to wipe their eyes. They were dressed in T-shirts and work gloves and carried pruning shears and pushed mowers. They carried towels to wipe their brows.

Newton had received several complaints from residents prompting him to set up the cleanup. But his constituents weren't the only ones he was thinking of.

His own mother, Susie Mae Newton, who died in 1985, is buried at the back of the cemetery where the weeds were particularly high, and he had not been able to find her headstone in more than a year.

But, he finally found it and cleaned it off. And then he cleaned off the other dozen or so graves in the same row. He estimated the volunteers uncovered about 400 graves. About 6,500 people are buried there. Not all the graves were overgrown, but many were.

"All I've been thinking about is all those people covered up in the back," Newton said after the cleanup. He's not through, he said. He will have another cleanup in a couple of weeks— Dec. 10 from 8 a.m. to noon.

The condition of the cemetery has been deteriorating, Newton said, because Sarlie McKinnon III, the man who agreed to take over care of the property two years ago, ran out of money. He was given $109,000 for its upkeep, but that money went fast. McKinnon was not at the cleanup.

Newton doesn't fault him but said he wishes McKinnon would have used the money to buy equipment instead of spending it to get the cemetery cleaned up. Newton can find the labor, but not the big commercial mowers needed to mow the grass.

Among those helping out Saturday was Arthurene Williams of St. Petersburg. She has many family members buried there, including an infant daughter, whose grave she was unable to locate.

"Since no one has any money, we need to just do what we're doing," she said. "It's going to look beautiful, but it's a waste of time if it's not kept up."

James Kelly of St. Petersburg is a boyhood friend and Masonic brother of McKinnon. The 77-year-old promised to help his friend and has been doing what he can for the past two years to keep the place looking good. He concentrated on the front of the cemetery that's visible from the road.

"We need volunteers to come out constantly to help out," he said.

Fast facts

Who's buried there?

There are some 6,500 people buried in the 9-acre Lincoln Cemetery, located on 58th Street S in Gulfport between Boca Ciega High School and Royal Palm Cemetery. The cemetery is closed, which means the only burial spots left — there are about 500 — have already been purchased, usually as part of a family burial site. While many of the graves have no headstones, there are a couple websites where names of those buried can be found:

Pinellas Genealogy Society:

Find a Grave (veterans):

Volunteers fix up Gulfport cemetery 11/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 2:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate


    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help


    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  3. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers


    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem


    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  5. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.