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School reflects well on namesake

Middleton is arguably the most durable school in the history of Hillsborough County, having survived fires, desegregation and reconfiguration. It's fitting that its namesake was a leading businessman and civic leader in Tampa's African-American community in the early 20th century. George Middleton was born in Charleston, S.C., in 1872. By 1900, he moved to Tampa and boarded with the family of Isaac Howard, a pioneer in the local African-American community.

Middleton found work as a postman and became active in civic groups, serving in 1909 as president of the Negro State Fair Association.

Middleton had a keen business sense and in 1914 helped organize the Tampa Negro Board of Trade. That same year, he served as master of ceremonies for Tampa's Emancipation Day celebration.

In 1922, he helped form the Central Industrial Insurance Co. (later the Central Life Insurance Co.), serving as its secretary then treasurer. Four years later he helped found the Tampa Service Club and the black community's YMCA. Middleton also was involved in numerous civic causes, particularly those involving children.

Though he never had children, Middleton had a happy home life. He married Howard's daughter Margaret Jane in 1917, and they lived at 206 Scott St. downtown. He died in 1933.

In 1934, Tampa's first, official black senior high school (the 1925 Booker T. Washington Junior High had been serving high school students) opened on 24th Street in East Tampa. The following year it was named for Middleton.

A fire destroyed much of the building in 1940. It was rebuilt but ruined in another fire in 1968.

Middleton reopened in 1971 as an integrated junior high school and in 1993 became the Middleton Middle Magnet School of Technology.

In 2002, Middleton became a high school again when it reopened in the form of a new magnet specializing in math, science, engineering and technology.

_ MICHAEL CANNING

Source: Family Records of the African American Pioneers of Tampa and Hillsborough County by Cantor Brown, Tampa Bay History Center, Hillsborough County School System.

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