Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue: Retired St. Petersburg Junior College dean James Goss always took charge

Dr. James C. Goss was known as Lefty to old teammates.

Dr. James C. Goss was known as Lefty to old teammates.

CLEARWATER — His name is stamped on dozens of plaques and certificates that now cover multiple walls of his house. James C. Goss had served as president of the boards of the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center and of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast. The governor of Kentucky had appointed Dr. Goss to the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.

Dr. Goss had earned a doctorate and served as an associate dean of St. Petersburg Junior College (now St. Petersburg College). He had been inducted into the Kentucky State University Basketball Hall of Fame.

One of the highest honors, however, was one Dr. Goss had bestowed on himself — as "president for life" of an informal group of former Kentucky State basketball teammates who knew him as Lefty.

Dr. Goss, a prominent educator and civic leader who took charge of whatever came his way, died March 28 of congestive heart failure. He was 79.

"Wherever he went, he made an impact, and that impact cut across his entire life," said Michelle Ligon, a longtime friend.

Dr. Goss was a big believer in what he called "paying it forward," pushing young people to achieve. While teaching at Pinellas High in Clearwater, he arranged a Kentucky State basketball scholarship for one of his students. That student, the late Harry Singletary, went on to become the first African-American to run Florida's prison system. "I don't know if I'd be sitting here today if he hadn't done that," Singletary said of his mentor in 1995.

Dr. Goss believed he was only repaying benefits that had allowed him to succeed.

James Calvin Goss was born in 1934 in St. Cloud and grew up in Orlando. A three-time all-state point guard at Jones High, Dr. Goss won a scholarship to what was then called Kentucky State College (now Kentucky State University).

At Kentucky State, he started for the Thorobreds all four years, making the all-Mid-Western Conference team in 1955 and 1956. He played basketball while serving in the Army, and was MVP of the Army Divisional Tournament in 1958.

He married Theresa Carter. Both would go on to earn doctorates.

Dr. Goss started at SPJC in 1975 as a social sciences instructor. Theresa Goss later directed the college library.

Each fall, he returned to Frankfort, Ky., for the Kentucky State homecoming, a chance to meet his former teammates and his Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brothers.

One of his former teammates, Max Jameson, was drafted into the NBA and later played for the Harlem Globetrotters. (Jame­son's twin brother, Scott, also a Kentucky State teammate, played for the Washington Generals, the Globetrotters' perpetual foil.)

In the early 1990s, the teammates, now in their 50s, decided to meet in Detroit. The long weekend went so well, Dr. Goss decided the group would meet every year, and declared himself its president.

"We said, 'Who nominated you?' " said teammate Lorenzo Harbin, 81. "He said, 'I'm president for life!'

"Sometimes we might think he's a little bossy, but we all respected that," Harbin said. "That was Lefty. He kind of kept things going."

He gave them all titles. The men met every year in different cities across the country. Since most of them were educators, they usually met during spring break. Over time, some former Thorobreds football players joined them, as did ex-basketball players from rival Tennessee State University.

Dr. Goss retired from SPJC in 1995 as associate dean of the college and director of its diversity program. He threw himself into civic involvement and golf.

Theresa died in 2006. Dr. Goss married Sylvia Arnett in 2007.

In 2012, the basketball alumni group met, again in Detroit, for the last time. By then some in the group had died. Others were just getting tired.

"You could tell by the ages, the guys were slowly passing away," Harbin said. "The guys didn't want to go 400 and 500 miles."

This year is different, however. With the help of Sylvia Goss, the teammates are looking at getting together in Louisville sometime in May. They will make one more trip to toast the memory of their president for life.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.


James Calvin "Lefty" Goss

Born: Dec. 19, 1934

Died: March 28, 2014

Survivors: wife, Sylvia Goss; brother, Larry Stephens; stepsons Johnny Arnett Jr., Alonzo Arnett and Anthony Arnett; seven stepgrandchildren; and two stepgreat-grandchildren.

Service: Funeral service 11 a.m. today, McCabe United Methodist Church, 2800 26th Ave. S, St. Petersburg.

Epilogue: Retired St. Petersburg Junior College dean James Goss always took charge 04/04/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 10:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Federal study says humans harmed by dispersant used during Deepwater Horizon


    A first-of-its-kind scientific study has determined that the dispersant BP sprayed at the oil gushing from the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010 harmed human health.

  2. Across Tampa Bay, local commercial banks and credit unions appear healthy


    In another sign of economic vitality, Florida's home-grown banking industry demonstrated strong bench strength in the latest quarterly analysis by Bauer Financial. The vast majority of commercial banks with headquarters in Florida received five "stars" from Bauer, which is the highest ranking of health on its 0-to-5 …

    Several years ago, First Home Bank in Seminole faced regulators breathing down its neck for inaedquate controls and financial weakness. Under CEO 
Anthony N. Leo, the bank has rebounded. It received a top-rated "5" star rating from Bauer Financial in the latest quarter. Most area banks are doing better these days. [SCOTT KEELER      |     TIMES]
  3. Two linemen lose their wedding rings in Tampa Bay. So far one has been found and returned.

    Human Interest

    Two linemen who spent days restoring power in the Tampa Bay area had the same unfortunate mishap: They lost their wedding rings.

    Facebook helped Michael White find the wedding ring he lost while helping restore power in Tampa Bay.
  4. Need is now for new mental health center at Bay Pines, veterans say


    ST. PETERSBURG — Veteran Ellsworth "Tony" Williams says the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System's new mental health center will help fill an immediate need.

    The new mental health center at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System stands four stories tall and was built at a cost of $92 million. It will centralize services that before were scattered. [HOWARD ALTMAN   |   Staff]
  5. GOP health bill all but dead; McCain again deals the blow


    WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain declared his opposition Friday to the GOP's last-ditch effort to repeal and replace "Obamacare," dealing a likely death blow to the legislation and, perhaps, to the Republican Party's years of vows to kill the program.

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington in July.  McCain says he won't vote for the Republican bill repealing the Obama health care law. His statement likely deals a fatal blow to the last-gasp GOP measure in a Senate showdown expected next week. [Associated Press]