TARPON SPRINGS — Cameras flashed in City Hall, and supporters stood and cheered when David Archie walked into the room. Archie was the second African-American commissioner in the city's history, and that day in 1996 was his first on the job.
His white-haired father, Samuel Archie, sang a song about Tarpon Springs in a deep baritone. The audience erupted. In a way, it seemed to David Archie people had applauded — and voted — as much for his father as himself.
It was the elder Archie, after all, who in the face of segregation had started a boys club that filled a void for black children, several of whom went on to become community leaders.
He also sued the city for better services to African-American neighborhoods. The lawsuit failed but resulted in most of the changes he sought.
Mr. Archie died Sunday at 95.
"People knew him — black, white, Greek — and respected him as a man," said Archie, now 56 and a candidate for mayor. "The things he instilled in me was the reason I had the opportunity to be there."
Born in Ocala, Mr. Archie moved to Tarpon Springs with his family when he was 4.
Mr. Archie did "a little bit of this and a little bit of that," his son said. For years he was the head custodian at Union Academy. He also operated a corner store and had rental properties.
Around 1960, Mr. Archie tried to form a Boys Club branch in a primarily African-American neighborhood. The Boys Club organization refused to go along.
It left a bitter taste, one Mr. Archie sweetened with humor. He formed his own club, and named it the "Better Boys Club."
"He taught us that there are rules in life, and that we have to play the game by the rules," said Harry Singletary, who served as the state's secretary of corrections during the 1990s.
A small store operated by Mr. Archie and his wife, Elizabeth, gave credit to families, including Singletary's parents, until payday.
He believed in work. It was what men did to take care of their families, he told his kids.
In the 1970s, fed up with unpaved streets and inadequate facilities for children, he joined in a lawsuit against the city. The suit contended the city had withheld services in African-American neighborhoods.
"You could say that there was no victory," said Glenn Davis, 55, the city's first African-American commissioner. "But I say there was a victory, because after Mr. Archie and a few members of our community started the lawsuit, things started changing in Tarpon Springs."
The Better Boys Club remained active until the late 1960s. The building was moved in 2000 to Heritage Village.
"There are a lot of kids who came through Tarpon Springs who are better off because Mr. Archie lived there," Singletary said.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]