George Wesley Perkins will be remembered as one of the early African-American pioneer educators of St. Petersburg.
By Gwendolyn Reese
George Wesley Perkins was born in Gainesville and began teaching at the age of 16 in a one-room schoolhouse in Archer, Fla. He moved to St. Petersburg in 1925 and became the first principal of Jordan Elementary School and then Gibbs High School.
When Gibbs opened during the depression, it was overcrowded and under-supplied. He placed his hope for African Americans in education. To that end, he worked to build and enrich the program at Gibbs High School where he served as Principal.
Under his leadership, the school’s campus grew to include a chemistry lab, tennis courts, gymnatorium and cafeteria. He also broadened course offerings to include vocational disciplines.
Perkins motivated the community to contribute to the expansion projects by establishing a program in which people bought a brick for $10. Educators who taught the trades classes supervised the school construction projects with students doing the work for hands-on experience. St. Petersburg Vocational Technical School has its roots in this program.
Perkins died in 1955. He will be remembered as one of the early African-American pioneer educators of St. Petersburg. Perkins Elementary School was named in his honor.