ST. PETERSBURG — For the fifth year, the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum will honor women with ties to Pinellas County who have achieved firsts as African-American women.
The museum’s 2019 celebration of St. Petersburg’s “First Ladies in African American History” honors five women.
Patricia Wright became the first African-American female director of school operations for Pinellas County Schools in 2008.
U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Jeanine Menze was awarded “wings of gold” in 2005 and became the Coast Guard’s first female African-American aviator in its more than 200-year history.
Nadine Smith is the executive director of Equality Florida, the state’s largest organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Sharon Welch is the city of St. Petersburg’s first African-American and female IT systems development manager.
Bridgette Heller is the first African-American female president of Johnson & Johnson’s Global Baby Business.
Thelma McCloud, who has been on the museum board since 2008 and is the longest-serving officer is a Special Honoree.
Past honorees have included Patti Alsup, U.S. Ambassador to The Gambia; St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin; Rene Flowers, Pinellas County School Board Chair; Dr. Nancy Bryant; artist Ya La’Ford; and Dr. Tonjua Williams, president of St. Petersburg College.
The Woodson also will honor local artist Jane Bunker with the Winnie Foster Lifetime Achievement Award, given to a non-black person who has helped advance causes related to the continued struggle of African-Americans. Bunker recently donated 20 of her original oil paintings to the Woodson to be auctioned as a fundraiser.
The award is named for Winnie Foster, who fought for women’s rights, integration and equal rights in the workplace in Pinellas County. The award was created last year, when it was given to Premier Eye Care CEO Lorna Taylor.