McCabe United Methodist Church held its sixth annual James B. Sanderlin Black History Award Ceremony, honoring educator Delceda Harris-Thompson.
BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – McCabe United Methodist Church held its sixth annual James B. Sanderlin Black History Award Ceremony on Feb. 26. Judge James B. Sanderlin, the first Black judge in Pinellas County, his brother Raymond Sanderlin, Sr. and nephew Raymond Sanderlin, Jr. were all active members of McCabe family and the community.
McCabe established the award with support from the Sanderlin family to keep his legacy alive in the community. This year’s recipient was Delceda Harris-Thompson, a retired educator with Pinellas County Schools.
One of Harris-Thompson’s oldest friends, Mozelle Davis, was tasked with telling the history of this outstanding educator.
Born in Reddick, Fla., a small city in Marion County, she moved with her family to St. Petersburg as a small child. She attended Davis Elementary School, the first formal school for African Americans in St. Pete. She then matriculated into segregated Gibbs High School, which served children from 7-12th grade.
While at Gibbs, she was a leading soprano in the famous St. Cecelia Choir, directed by Ernest Ayer Ponder. With a scholarship McCabe United Methodist Church helped her secure, Harris-Thompson attended Bethune Cookman College (now university) during the time when Mary McLeod Bethune walked the hallowed halls of the college she founded.
Harris-Thompson brought her angelic voice with her to Bethune Cookman and became a member of their choir.
After graduation, she received a teaching position at 16th Street Junior High School. She also worked at Perkins Elementary School before becoming a curriculum resource teacher, a position she held until her retirement after 39 years of molding the minds of young students in Pinellas County.
Since moving to St. Pete as a small child, she has been a member of McCabe long before the current edifice on 26th Avenue South.
Harris-Thompson has received several awards in her lifetime, including ones for her championship golfing skills and special recognition from the Boys and Girls Club, where she volunteered for years as a tutor in its after-school program.
She earned the title of the “best-dressed woman in St. Pete” from a woman’s group, is a Friend of the Woodson African American Museum of Florida, an Alumni member of the St. Petersburg Links and is a member of the Bethune Cookman Alumni Association.
‘I’m truly blessed and honored, and I will always remain humble,” said Harris-Thompson, as she accepted her award. “I’m reminded of the late pitcher Satchel Page. He said, ‘Don’t keep looking back because someone might be gaining on you.’ My motto is: ‘Be careful how you live your life because you never know who’s looking at you.’”
About James B. Sanderlin
Judge James B. Sanderlin was an attorney who, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, used litigation to fight for equality and against discrimination in Pinellas County. During this time, Sanderlin was one of only five African-American attorneys who practiced in racially divided St. Petersburg.
He devoted his career to unifying Blacks and whites in his community to move toward social and legal equality. Among his many achievements, Sanderlin was instrumental in the judicial oversight of the integration of Pinellas County’s police force. He died in 1990. He was a member of McCabe United Methodist Church.