Greco Middle School teacher James Pope dies in collision

SEFFNER — James Pope didn't just teach social studies, he encouraged his students to get involved in them.

During the six years he taught eighth-grade U.S. history at Mulrennan Middle School in Valrico, he created an annual Veterans Day celebration —Mulrennan Salutes — where the students dressed in red, white and blue and stood together to create a giant flag that the school photographed each year, said Tim Ducker, Mulrennan's principal.

On Monday, Pope, who had just begun a new position at Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace this fall, was on his way to work when he died in a three-way crash in Seffner, deputies said. He was 33.

Pope, of Mulberry, was driving north on County Road 579 about 8 a.m. when Virginia Fleming, 67, ran a stop sign on Pruett Road, deputies said. Fleming, driving a Buick, hit Pope's Ford Fusion on the passenger side. The collision turned the car around, and a Ford F-150 traveling south on CR 579 hit Pope's car on the driver's side. The driver of the F-150, Mark Knowlton, 41, is a Gator Ford mechanic who was test-driving the truck.

Deputies said Pope died at the scene. Neither Knowlton nor Fleming was injured.

At Greco, Pope taught eighth-grade social studies and U.S. history.

"He was a very passionate man in regards to civics, the community and the Constitution," Ducker said. "He taught social studies for a reason: He loved it," the principal said.

Pope hoped that having events such as Mulrennan Salutes would show the students Veterans Day meant something and should be honored, Ducker said.

"It was completely his concept; he started and organized the whole thing."

But as much as Pope loved social studies and his students, he loved his family even more, Ducker said. Pope was married and had two young boys, he said.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3374.

Greco Middle School teacher James Pope dies in collision 10/11/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 12:21am]

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