Honoring Coach Dixon

BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — In appreciation of Black History Month, Faith Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, located at 1800 18th Ave. S., has chosen to honor long standing resident and community contributor Herbert H. Dixon.

The 12th annual Black History Honorary Program got underway last Friday with members of the congregation and the community joining together for a night of remembering.

“It’s only appropriate that we speak to issues regarding our history,” said Frankye Jaudon. She began with the end of the Civil War and what was the beginning of freedom for blacks that had lived a life of slavery.

Talk continued of the struggles black Americans endured during the Reconstruction Era, segregation and the Jim Crow laws enforcing it. Jaudon briefly educated the youngsters in the room on organizations of the time that harassed and “kept black folks down.” Dr. Martin Luther King and his accomplishments toward equal rights was touched upon with Jaudon urging the younger generation to become educated and to continue to advocate for change even in today’s society.

“We come from a rich heritage,” she continued reminding those in the room of a slogan from the 1960s which spoke of being proud of your heritage, even if it is different than the majority. “We were a united people,” Jaudon said. “We need to get back to that sense of community and instead of shooting one another we need to be lifting people up.”

But through all the adversity there are beacons of light. Those in the community that advanced in education regardless of the constraints society placed on them at the time. Dixon was one of those who worked tirelessly for the betterment of himself and bestowed his knowledge and compassion on those, which surrounded him.

A 1951 graduate of Gibbs High School, Dixon made his way to Florida A & M University (FAMU) on a basketball scholarship. He served in the U.S. Navy and in 1958 earned his Bachelor of Science. He was a director at Melrose Park YMCA for seven years as he attended school and by 1965 had earned a master’s degree.

For 12 years Dixon served his community as a teacher in both Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties. During his time working with students, Dixon found time to become certified in administration and in 1977 embarked on a new path as an assistant principal. He served in this post at various schools, Northeast High, Dixie Hollins High and Gibbs High School until his retirement in 1995.

“Herb demonstrated a love for the children,” said Deacon Elbert Johnson of Faith Memorial, not only in the school system, but in the congregation as well. “He regularly greets them individually by name and asks them how things are going.” For those who are now adults, Dixon keeps tabs on their successes by staying in touch with their parents.

Dixon also is known for his dedication to the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. His fraternity brother, Watson Haynes, was there to honor him on his special day, exemplifying Dixon’s dedication to the fraternity throughout the years. Whether finding his own way to meetings, or needing a brother to pick him up, Dixon is known for staying active and involved with his fraternity brothers, even being called the glue that holds everyone together.

Deacon Johnson has known Dixon for nearly 43 years, remembering almost to the day when they both met. Selected by the ministry to become deacons, Johnson and Dixon were instructed in the faith for a year and endured an examination by a panel before becoming ordained as deacons in 1990.

The words: “This is your life,” echoed throughout the church as people from the community took the time to come up and reflect on Dixon’s contributions to those living in St. Petersburg along with him since his time as a youth.

Deacon Shelly Odom discussed the history of the tragic 1970 lightning strike that hit the old Gibbs practice football field. Dixon was among the 21 injured on that horrible day as he huddled with his players. He was an assistant coach at the time. Two young players died. That day was a life changer for so many and soon after Dixon joined Faith Memorial Missionary Baptist Church.

“I have so many friends, but the best one is the friend in Jesus,” Dixon said. He thanked everyone for coming and expressed his love of everyone in the room, including his wife of some 56 years. “I’m grateful that the Lord has made a way for me.”

Pastor Rainey spoke of Dixon’s true heart and intentions and how he seldom missed a day of prayer. From his work with the children in the school system to the children of the congregation, Dixon will always be known as a man of compassion. “That’s a man of God right there,” said Rainey. And a whole roomful of well-wishers and admirers would have to agree.

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