Gibbs Junior High School

Gwen Reese: "I AM"

By Gwendolyn Reese

The Tampa Bay Times, as does many other newspapers, offers limited access to past articles. This made it increasingly difficult to find information about many of the people I wanted to include in the weekly “I AM” articles.

The search for credible sources proved to be very challenging until I subscribed to the website www.newspapers.com. This website opened a door to the past that exceeded any expectations I had when I initially subscribed. I often find myself sitting for hours reading old papers and learning new things.

I learned that at one time there was a Gibbs Junior High School. The story, with pictures, appeared in the St. Petersburg Times Sunday, Sept. 2, 1951, under the banner “News of Negroes of St. Petersburg and Pinellas.”

Beneath the banner appeared the names, addresses and phone numbers of the people responsible for the news reported on this page. Church, club and society items were reported to Hazel Davis. E.H. McLin was responsible for advertising, sports and school news and for home delivery, readers were referred to Julian Robinson.

The cost for the paper was 40 cents per week and the telephone numbers had only 6 digits (ex. 74-8055). The paper boasted: “The News of Negroes of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County is the oldest and largest feature of its kind carried by any newspaper published in Pinellas County.”

The headline “As Gibbs Junior High Prepares to Open’’ was accompanied by two pictures with descriptions. The pictures told the story. The first picture was of three of the junior high school teachers: Bernice Barnes, English teacher, Fannie M. Barco and Agnes Hunter.

Barnes was sharing with the newcomers some of the “intricate and pleasant parts of the junior high school.” Barco and Hunter were experienced teachers but neither taught at Gibbs previously. Barco, who had been on leave, would be in the home economics department and Hunter who was transferred from Jordan Elementary School to be in the English and music departments.

The second picture was of Barnes and Hunter with L.D. Brown recording weights and heights of students during registration. One of the three young girls being registered was my cousin Ruth Thornton. The caption read: “Principal F.D. Burney and the faculty witnessed many mixed emotions as the youngsters registered for the Fall term which starts Tuesday.”

Gwen Reese

Gwen Reese

Near the bottom of the page was a very small article advertising a typing class for adults. Those interested were asked to contact Lena Brown.

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but unfortunately, I am not able to share the photos. I can only hope my words will adequately convey the story.

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