By Gwendolyn Reese
Eugene H. McLin was city recreational director, football coach, baseball official, sports writer for the St. Petersburg Times, teacher and amateur actor and vocalist. He headed the City Recreation Fordhamaires, a mixed vocal ensemble, and in a 1947 newspaper article he is said to “serve as a special policeman.”
McLin, Uncle Gene to my son, daughter and their father’s family, was born in Gainesville. He was the oldest son of Rev. and Mrs. Rudolphus Dean McLin and brother of Emma McLin Peaten, Olive B., James and Alex McLin. According to information found in his obituary, the family moved to St. Petersburg in 1928.
He was a graduate of Clark College in Atlanta and taught in local schools for several years.
In his obituary, he is described in the following way, “former City of St. Petersburg employee for many years was a Negro supervisor for the City Parks and Recreation Department.”
He was also a part-time reporter for The Times. In May 1952, he wrote in his column “Sports Parade” of upcoming games for two of St. Petersburg’s Negro baseball teams — the Pelicans and the Tigers. He described the Pelicans as “not impressive” in an exhibition gameplay, and the Tigers’ sound defeat of the Tarpon Springs Spongers and the Inverness Globetrotters under the leadership of Jake Hampton.
In the same column, he informed the community of two Negro baseball players, Vic Powers from Puerto Rico and Billy Powell who were both making baseball history with the Kansas City Blues as the first Negroes to represent the city in the American Association.
McLin, a veteran of World War II, served as commander of American Veterans (AMVETS) Post 2. In 1951 at the state convention of the Florida Department AMVETS, he served as chairman of the honors and awards committee and recommended AMVETS awards to two men “for their work in helping veterans after the 1950 hurricane.”
During the convention, he and James Ward of Orlando were elected as Negro vice-commanders of the organization. The AMVETS is the nation’s most inclusive congressionally-chartered veterans service organization.
In 1952, according to an article in the St. Petersburg Times’ “Local and National Negro News,” he directed the drama “The Girl Who Forgot” sponsored by the Non-Pareil Federated club and played the role of the district attorney in the production, which was performed in the Gibbs High School auditorium. Previously, he received accolades for his outstanding acting in the dramas “Beyond Pardon” and “Forever True.”
In 1953, McLin, as the recreation director, delivered the main address during the dedication service for the Campbell Park Community Center. The event, sponsored by the city’s federated, social and service clubs along with the Metropolitan Council of the National Council of Negro women and the Federated Council on Recreation, included a tea and band concert by the Gibbs Senior High School band, assisted by the Sixteenth Street Junior High School band under the direction of bandmasters Reynold Davis and Samuel Robinson respectively.
Committed to his fellow man, McLin served his community in a myriad of ways. In 1954, he was one of many who answered the call to formulate a plan for X-raying some 20,000 area residents between March 30 and April 3 of that year. The purpose was “to detect unsuspected cases of tuberculosis and to notify those infected of the correct procedure for hospitalization or treatment.”
At the time of his death, he was an appliance salesman with the W.T. Grant Co. He joined the company in April of 1962, becoming the first Negro employed in that capacity by a major local department store.
He was a member of the Trustee Board at Bethel A.M.E. Church, a member of Omega Psi Phi, the Elks and numerous other fraternal and professional organizations. In 1941, he served as a delegate to the state Elks convention along with Nathaniel Brown, Robert Swain and others.
In 1947, he was a delegate to the national Elks Convention in Philadelphia representing the Sunshine City Lodge No. 255. He also served as chaplain of the Edward Waters College Club when it was organized in 1955. Elder Grant McCray Sr. was named president and many prominent residents joined the club for the purpose to “stimulate interest in the college throughout the Tampa Bay and Suncoast area.”
McLin was a member of the Non-Partisan Voters League in 1960 when J.P. Moses, league president, inaugurated a series of meetings and lectures “to conduct a continuous drive to register every eligible voter” and to educate high school and college students on practical politics. McLin was appointed to the registration and school committee.
In 1957, he was recognized by Recreation Department Supervisor Jack Puryear for his many years in the recreation field. The event included a skit built around his years of service in this area and a presentation made by Mrs. Rubye Wysinger, summer program public relations director.
The E.H. McLin Pool at Campbell Park bears his name.
McLin died Wednesday, Oct. 2, 1963, in the McLin-Peaten family home at 2334 Eighth Ave. S.