Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Vera Noble

Epilogue: Vera Noble inspired those around her

After getting a late start in elementary school due to segregation, Vera Noble graduated from Gibbs High School as valedictorian, then was mentored by college founder Mary McLeod Bethune.

After getting a late start in elementary school due to segregation, Vera Noble graduated from Gibbs High School as valedictorian, then was mentored by college founder Mary McLeod Bethune.

ST. PETERSBURG — From 1980 until just a few years ago, Vera Noble motivated her fellow church members by example. She set up the Christian education program at First Baptist Institutional and its vacation Bible school, trained teachers and served as Florida moderator of the American Baptist Churches of the South.

She had been a close friend of civil rights activist Dorothy Height, who was a 40-year president of the National Council of Negro Women and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Mrs. Noble believed in her mission, which centered on Christian education for young people, and she inspired belief in others.

"She had her way," said the Rev. Wayne Thompson, 64, First Baptist Institutional's pastor. "She would get you to do it if you said you couldn't do it. She would tell you you could do it, and then she would persuade you to do it."

Her local church work began in her mid 60s after she worked for the federal government in Philadelphia, raised a family and founded a summer camp in the Poconos for inner-city children.

"She was soft spoken and assertive," said Gilbert Noble, 66, her son. "She believed in grooming younger people."

When the Rev. Thompson joined First Baptist Institutional in 1983, his first pastorate, Mrs. Noble told him he belonged in the job and prayed alongside him.

She was born Vera McLeod in Adel, Ga., in 1916, the eldest of seven children. Mrs. Noble moved to St. Petersburg in the late 1920s, when the city was highly segregated and getting more so. Her father, contractor H.D. McLeod, and his wife, Mabel, found a home at 1944 12th Ave. S.

Even a city that was building racial barriers stood as an improvement over the one they left behind. Schools in Adel did not accept black children, Mrs. Noble's family said. She started public school in St. Petersburg two years older than most of her classmates.

As a teenager and at her mother's request, she took over parenting duties for the youngest three siblings — brother Tarra and sisters Elizabeth and Rose.

She graduated as the valedictorian of Gibbs High's class of 1936, and entered Be­thune-Cookman College (now Be­thune-Cookman University). The bright student caught the eye of Mary McLeod Bethune, the school's founder, who befriended her.

After graduating, Mrs. Noble moved to Washington, D.C. At a dance she met Clifford Noble, a Pullman porter who had seen the country. They married in 1946 and lived in Philadelphia, where she directed Sunday school programs at Mount Carmel Baptist Church. Two of her youngest siblings, Tarra McLeod and Rose Walker, followed their de facto second mother to Philadelphia.

For many years, Mrs. Noble processed claims for the Social Security Administration. Clifford Noble died in 1975. Mrs. Noble retired to St. Petersburg in 1980 to care for her mother. Years later, Tarra and Rose left Philadelphia, as well.

All three of the youngest siblings — Tarra, Rose and Elizabeth — died within 10 days of one another in 2008, all of natural causes. The other three siblings had died previously.

"She never really recovered," said son Gilbert Noble. "It was one of the most destructive things, emotionally and psychologically, in her life."

Her family noticed an advancing dementia over the next year and moved her to an assisted living center.

Mrs. Noble died Tuesday after an illness. She was 97.

She remains an inspirational figure to those who crossed paths with her. Among the mementoes the family has retrieved since her death was a statement by Dorothy Height at Mrs. Noble's 90th birthday in 2006.

"As one of Mary McLeod Bethune's favorite daughters, you exemplify the highest ideals of womanhood, service and achievement for which the National Council of Negro Women was founded," Height wrote. "There are no words to fully express appreciation for you."

Contact Andrew Meacham at or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.


Vera Noble

Born: Sept. 12, 1916

Died: July 22, 2014

Survivors: son, Gilbert Noble; daughter, Sandra Noble; two grandchildren; other extended family.

Service: Noon Saturday, First Baptist Institutional Church, 3144 Third Ave. S. For more information, call McRae Funeral Home at (727) 895-6005.

Epilogue: Vera Noble inspired those around her 07/23/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 10:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jordan Spieth wins British Open (w/ video)


    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.
  2. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  3. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  4. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.
  5. White House signals acceptance of Russia sanctions bill


    WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday that President Donald Trump would accept new legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and curtailing his authority to lift them on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt in Congress by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to …

    President Donald Trump’s ability to lift sanctions against Russia would be blocked.