ST. PETERSBURG – The Dixie Hollins High School Alumni Association (DHHSAA) inducted four members into the Dixie Hollins Athletic Hall of Fame last Thurs., Sept. 25. Held in the school’s cafeteria, the small ceremony was attended by friends and family of the inductees.
This year Joe Petruccelli, Class of 1966, was instated for his accomplishments on the gridiron. David Boyd, Class of 1982, was inducted for his undertakings in wrestling, Meagan Thomas, Class of 2014, didn’t have to wait for praises in girls basketball and Steve Jones, class of 1966, who had to wait far too long.
Some of you may not be able to imagine how it feels to attend a school where only a handful of the people look like you. You might not be able to imagine how it feels to be met with opposition simply because of your skin color, but Steve Jones does.
Back in the turbulent 1960s, racial tensions were at an all-time high. All around the country African Americans were standing up to the status quo and St. Petersburg was no different.
Steve Jones attended Jordan Elementary and 16th Street Junior High. When it was time to go to high school everyone thought that he would attend Gibbs High.
During that time schools were on the brink of being integrated, so when Jones was handpicked along with seven other African-American students to be the first to integrate Pinellas County schools, he seized the opportunity and attended Dixie Hollins.
Since Jones was very athletic, he decided to go out for the school’s varsity football team, and football coach Forest Page took notice of his athletic ability.
During this time in 1963, having a black quarterback at an all-white public high school was virtually unheard of; in fact, Jones was the first African American to play in a high school football game sanctioned by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
“Racism existed but it was never blatant. But I always had the feeling that there were subtle comments being made about me being black,” Jones said in an interview back in 2012.
During his illustrious high school career, he made the Pinellas County All Conference team as the quarterback, along with Glen Edwards of Gibbs High. Later, his second coach, Frank Goddard, orchestrated a deal where he would then earn a football scholarship to the University of Toledo.
Jones would go on to start as the quarterback at Toledo for two years and during his tenure they played in 1969 Tangerine Bowl.
Later Jones became the first African-American certified public accountant at a firm called Ernst & Ernst in Toledo, Ohio.
Unable to attend the ceremony, Jones asked his nephew Phillip Haywood, who fought tooth and nail to get him inducted, to read a prepared statement. Humble as ever, he graciously accepted his induction.
“I accept this honor reluctantly because so many people had a hand in my journey from the Jordan Park Projects to high school, college and a successful career and family,” Jones wrote.
He thanked former teachers, coaches, schoolmates and even his principle, but he saved the best for last when he wrote, “I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who provided a gift to me that will endure long after the memories of this ceremony have faded, the gift of eternal life.”