Jackson and Shorter honored with Congressional Record

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG –U.S. Representative Kathy Castor hosted her annual Black History Month program to honor community leaders by recording their legacies into the Congressional Record at the U.S. Library of Congress. This year’s event at the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum honored Thomas “Jet” Jackson and Barbara Shorter.

The museum was packed Fri., Feb. 19 with friends and family all there to honor Jackson and Shorter for their extraordinary contributions to the community. These recognitions will forever mark their legacies in the U.S. Library of Congress.

Thomas “Jet” Jackson

For more than 50 years, Jackson has worked tirelessly for the City of St. Petersburg. He began his career at the ripe old age of 14 in 1960 as a lifeguard at South Mole Beach at a time when African Americans were not permitted to enter the “whites only” Spa Beach.

After more than a half century of breaking down racial barriers to foster an equitable playing field in the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, he was recently honored at the Sunshine Center for being an African-American pioneer.

Early in his career, Jackson served as the supervisor for Wildwood Recreation Center, where as a child he used to sneak into the Jennie Hall Pool without paying.  Now that same center, located at 1000 28th St. S, is officially named the Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center in recognition of his unwavering commitment to the Parks and Recreation Department and the residents it serves.

Known for his forthright demeanor, his colleagues know he’ll set them straight in a minute, but will also be the first one by their side in times of need. It is this dedication to others that made him a beloved leader of the department.

He will always be remembered as an African-American pioneer who bulldozed the wall of segregation during a time when separate meetings at the city was the norm. Jackson stuck to his morals and convictions, always rising above the situation and treating everyone with respect.

There are many accounts of children in St. Petersburg that felt as though their difficult upbringing precluded them from success, but his support and words of encouragement made them determined to succeed.

Jackson helped many parents enroll their children in recreational programs even if they were full.  He made sure that every child had a place to participate and thrive.

He is the epitome of a public servant and continues to be an extraordinary example for the youth in the community.

Barbara Shorter

Graduating from Gibbs High School and matriculating to Florida A&M University, she began her illustrious career as an Administrative Assistant to the Dean of the School of Agriculture and Home Economics. She dedicated the next decade to teaching before continuing her own education at FAMU, where she received her master’s degree in guidance and counseling.

Soon after graduation, she accepted a position as the assistant principal at Northeast High School, becoming the third African-American teacher ever assigned to an all-white high school in Pinellas County.

Returning to her alma mater, Gibbs High School, she became the first female African-American high school principal in Pinellas County in 100 years. She is also the longest serving principal in Gibbs’ history.

Shorter was recognized as Tampa Bay’s Black Most Influential in 1983 as well as Pinellas County’s Educator of the Year for two years straight. Her local successes were recognized on the national level upon an invitation from Secretary of State Colin Powell to attend President Clinton’s Summit on Education Issues from 1997-2000.

Throughout her life, she has displayed a passion for civic engagement. She inspired the next generation of leaders in the black community by being actively involved in more than a dozen associations. She’s currently a member of the FAMU Alumni Association and has been an active member of Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, having had the longest active membership of more than 70 years.

Shorter has selflessly dedicated her life to the community and the children of Tampa Bay. Countless students and young professionals have benefited from her immeasurable efforts and unabashed enthusiasm.

Congratulations to Jet and Barbara from The Weekly Challenger!

scroll to top