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Educator's contributions memorialized in display

Frank W. Pierce's awards and a biography stand in the lobby of the community center that bears his name.

Toma Stubbs knew of Frank W. Pierce before he became a recreation supervisor at the center named for Pierce.

"I grew up in this community, right down the road from this center," said Stubbs, 27.

The Frank Pierce community center at Bartlett Park was dedicated in 1982, two years after the educator and activist died of lung cancer at age 56.

Pierce's community stature prompted city government to name the building in his honor. The record of some of his accomplishments is now on display in a case inside the center's lobby, thanks to Pierce's widow, Juanita.

"It dawned on me that I'm getting older, and we don't have any children," said Mrs. Pierce.

"I thought this would be a good place for the awards and that they could show how Frank was a role model," she said.

Unlike Stubbs, their supervisor, many among the hundreds of youngsters who participate in Bartlett Park programs know Frank Pierce only as the name of a building.

The display case is a way to memorialize Pierce's community contributions, Mrs. Pierce said.

Friends Charley Williams and Dr. Henry Oliver helped Mrs. Pierce arrange the case last week.

A single-page typed biography is in the center. There are several documents attesting to Pierce's accomplishments: One cites Pierce for outstanding service in 1973, when St. Petersburg was named an All-America City. It is signed by then-Mayor Randy Wedding and City Council members.

Another records Pierce's appointment to the Pinellas County transportation authority, signed in 1975 by Reubin Askew, then Florida's governor. There are certificates noting life membership in the NAACP and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Another is from the Ambassador Club, naming Pierce the Outstanding Citizen of 1978. Yet another logs his 1972 service as a United Way vice president.

An Augusta, Ga., native, Pierce came to St. Petersburg in 1957 as one of the original Gibbs Junior College faculty members, according to his biography. He led the science department and was basketball coach and student activities director.

When integration merged Gibbs and St. Petersburg Junior College, Pierce went to the school's Clearwater campus as a biology teacher.

Pierce's biography cities his service as co-chairman of the Community Alliance and as chairman of the Pinellas Opportunity Council and the Urban Development Corporation. He also was a member of the Pinellas County Charter Commission, the St. Petersburg Planning Commission and the Chamber of Commerce.

As a political activist, he campaigned for Democratic presidential candidates from Franklin D. Roosevelt through Jimmy Carter. He also made two unsuccessful runs for the Pinellas County school board.

"Frank was kind of like a mentor to me," said Williams, himself an educator who retired after serving as principal at Northeast High School.

Oliver, also an educator, retired from Englewood, N.J. He is president of the St. Petersburg chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, "which he held dear," Oliver said.