St. Petersburg College honored the late historian and archivist Minson Rubin last Saturday, highlighting his life’s work that documents Black life in St. Pete and throughout Florida. Mayor Ken Welch presented the Rubin family, wife Jeanette Rubin, and son, Minson Rubin, II, with a proclamation and key to the city.
BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg College honored late local historian and archivist Minson Rubin on Feb. 26, highlighting his life’s work that documents the Civil Rights Movement and Black life in St. Pete and throughout Florida.
Rubin, who passed away on Feb. 1, 2020, donated his collection to the college in 2015. During Black History Month, the SPC Foundation showcased his legacy by displaying his archives unveiled at Saturday’s community celebration in his honor at the SPC Midtown.
As part of the celebration, the Gibbs High band marched to honor Rubin, who graduated from Gibbs in 1963. He attended Florida A&M and was a teacher and basketball coach in the Pinellas County school system. Rubin was also a member of the Gibbs Sports Hall of Fame and the Gibbs Gladiator Alumni Association president.
Dr. Tonjua Williams, president of SPC, thanked the entire Rubin family for the sacrifices they’ve made over the years and “while sharing Minson with the entire community and beyond.”
“He is the model of Black excellence,” she said, “a legacy builder for generations to come.”
Mayor Ken Welch declared Feb. 26, 2022, Minson Ronald Rubin Day. He presented an official city proclamation, stating in part: “Through this love of history, and his commitment to collect and catalog historical documents, photographs and artifacts chronicling the history of race and segregation in St. Petersburg’s institutions of education, government, sports, housing, and community development, he provides us with that voice and windows to the past that provides guidance for the present and future.”
The mayor then presented Jeanette Rubin and the Rubin family with the key to the city. Minson Rubin, II, recalled his father building his collection of historical pieces little by little over the years and noted seeing a photograph his father had of Spa Beach, a once-segregated beach in downtown.
“Back then, obviously, there was one beach, and there was another beach,” he said. “So, to fight for those rights… some people in St. Pete may not realize…all the work that was put in before to provide those opportunities.”
St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway paid tribute to Rubin, stating that “he made sure that we kept our history, that we should always remember where we came from.” He urged audience members to also collect history, share the stories, and mentor others as Rubin did.
“We should always remember him not just one this day but every day,” he said.
SPC trustee Deveron Gibbons said it is essential to hold onto our history, as Rubin did, as “we will not repeat the mistakes of our past if we know what they are.”
“We will know all the great things and accomplishments that came from right here in this community because [Rubin] kept those; he was a keeper of things that came from right here,” Gibbons said.
Dr. Joseph Smiley, dean, Social and Behavioral Sciences and Human Services at SPC, said that archivist and educator Rubin deeply cared about his community.
“He reminds of the importance of recording the history of a community,” he said. “He collected memorabilia going and coming about his community. Well, why did he do that? Because he wanted to encourage and enlighten future generations. He reminds us that there is a need to draw inspiration and guidance from the past!”
Once the ceremony, held at SPC’s Cecil B. Keene Center underneath Zulu Painter’s latest mural on the Deuces, was over, the Gibbs High School marching band led the crowd down to the Midtown campus where part of the Rubin collection was on display.
“You know, we’re at a time now where people are going through great discourse in school about the relevance of history and so forth,” said former Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis. “And I think we will all agree that history is important. Yes, and that if we’re going to ever improve our lot in life, we should know from whence we’ve come.”
Rubin tried unsuccessfully to donate his archives to several venues throughout the city until his lifelong friend Ann Taylor approached Gibbons and the two presented the idea to former SPC President Bill Law. Now Rubin’s life’s work is spread throughout SPC campuses from Tarpon Springs to Midtown.
“Minson was an archivist and one who was very devoted to history,” said Davis. He looked around him at the events and situations surrounding him, the segregation that existed at the time. And he did all of us a favor because he decided to collect the artifacts of that period and to preserve them and to bring them forward.”