Legends Ball honors community icons

The Woodson African American Museum of Florida’s Legends Ball was held at the historic Coliseum on Feb. 18 to honor six legendary men for their contributions. BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer ST. PETERSBURG — The historic Coliseum saw the return of The Woodson African American Museum of Florida’s Legends Ball on Feb. 18, complete […]

Legends Ball honors community icons
The Woodson African American Museum of Florida’s Legends Ball was held at the historic Coliseum on Feb. 18 to honor six legendary men for their contributions.


ST. PETERSBURG — The historic Coliseum saw the return of The Woodson African American Museum of Florida’s Legends Ball on Feb. 18, complete with iconic leaders, elegant food service, dancing and an adoring audience. The sold-out event honored six legendary men for their contributions.

Hosted by The Woodson’s First Ladies Society, the evening was part of a tactical campaign to raise $38 million for Florida’s first purpose-built museum dedicated to celebrating African-American history, art, and culture. The new museum will be the epicenter of the historic Gas Plant district’s robust renaissance.

With $1 million in seed money from the City of St. Petersburg, corporate sponsorship of Premier Eyecare, major gifts from the Milkey Family Foundation and J. Crayton Pruitt, the campaign includes three years of operational expenses, and an endowment for exhibits, signature programs, and key staff positions.

Dr. Kanika Tomalin served as the mistress of ceremony, bringing her brand of elegance and sophistication to the evening. She explained that the First Ladies Society was formed to foster the museum’s vision, including providing fundraising support.

This elite group of women has earned the distinction of being named the first African-American woman in our community to hold titles of preeminence in their respective fields.

“I am so proud to be in this esteemed company as St. Pete’s first African-American female deputy mayor and city administrator, and I’m honored to share that we work so hard every day to help advance the mission and priorities of the Woodson,” she stated.

Commissioner Rene Flowers and Executive Director Terri Lipsey Scott of The Woodson African American Museum of Florida

Pinellas County Commissioner Rene Flowers is also privileged to be a member of the First Ladies Society. She took to the podium to ask for donations.

“St. Petersburg has been founded on the backs of a number of African Americans who moved here from up north because there were opportunities in the areas of construction and agriculture,” she said.

She mentioned the pioneering efforts of Elder Jordan, Flagmon Welch’s lumber yard that was crucial for early construction and her family’s grocery store that fed an entire community.

“And there are so many other families that are represented here on this evening and some that are not who were integral to the development and the renaissance that was occurring right here in the City of St. Petersburg.”

Flowers said it would be untenable for Black residents to have such a rich history and nowhere to present it. She feels the youth should learn about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Fannie Lou Hamer, but they should also learn about local figures such as Attorney Morris Milton and Rev. Enoch Davis, to name a few.

“Now, I’m not going to say any names, but we do know that we see an assault on African- American history. And if they don’t want to teach it to our children and other children in their schools, we have an obligation to make sure that it is taught in our communities, and we can start by making sure that we build the museum,” she exclaimed.

The Woodson’s Executive Director, Terri Lipsey Scott, thanked everyone helping her reach the museum’s goals, including Duke Energy, Downtown Partnership, The Tampa Bay Times, Enterprise Holdings and the Tampa Bay Rays.

Senator Darryl Rouson

Before Senator Darryl Rouson’s political career, he became the first African-American prosecutor in Pinellas County.

Darry Rouson has earned a reputation as a trailblazing attorney, community activist and legislator whose influence has been felt across Florida.

After graduating from Xavier University in New Orleans in 1977 and earning a J.D. from the University of Florida in 1980, he became the first African-American prosecutor in Pinellas County. Rouson is an attorney with Rubenstein Law, Florida’s premier personal injury law firm.

During his leadership of the St. Petersburg Branch of the NAACP from 2000 to 2005, Rouson tackled issues ranging from lacking diversity in hiring practices to the selling of drug paraphernalia. His legislative career began when he was elected to represent District 70 in the Florida House of Representatives in 2008.

He served in the House until he was termed out in 2016. Rouson was then elected State Senator from District 19, a position to which he has been re-elected three times. Having served on and led numerous Senate committees, he is currently vice-chair of the Appropriations Committee and vice-chair of the Ethics and Elections Committee.

Considered one of Tampa Bay’s most influential politicians, Rouson is an unrelenting advocate for his constituents. With a broad focus on improving life in the communities he represents, his efforts have ranged from securing funding for the MLK Day of Service to sponsoring and passing the Urban Agriculture bill that targets Florida’s hunger problem by allowing farming to take place in non-traditional communities.

Rouson’s personal addiction history fuels much of his advocacy. He has been a champion for substance abuse and mental health issues. His work in those areas includes sponsoring and passing a bill leading to the use of more peer-to-peer specialists in treating substance abuse disorder and mental illness.

He is married to Angela Holmes Rouson and is the proud father and stepfather of six young men and three young women. He has eight grandchildren.

Mayor Ken Welch

In 2021, Mayor Ken Welch became the first Black elected mayor of St. Petersburg.

In Nov. 2021, Ken Welch won more than 60 percent of the vote in the race for mayor to become the first African-American mayor of St. Petersburg when he took office on Jan. 6, 2022. Mayor Welch is a unifying leader who believes in building partnerships and working toward a common goal of authentic progress for every neighborhood.

Growing up in St. Pete’s Gas Plant area, Welch worked summers and after school at his grandfather’s lumber yard, which I-275 later displaced. He saw first-hand the uprooting of hundreds of businesses, homes, and churches on land where Tropicana Field was eventually constructed in the 1980s to attract a Major League Baseball franchise. He saw the unfulfilled promises of jobs and economic development.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and an MBA from Florida A&M University, Welch returned to St. Pete to work as an accountant for Florida Power Corp. He later served as technology manager for his father’s accounting firm.

After years of community service, he was elected to the Pinellas County Commission in 2000 and became the second African-American commissioner in the county’s history. He was subsequently re-elected to four consecutive terms.

Then-Commissioner Welch served as commission chair in 2006, 2013, and 2018. His 20 years of service brought a sharp focus to justice reform, poverty reduction, housing, transportation, environmental protection, community and economic development and homeless services.

As a commissioner, Welch led the effort to create the first Pinellas Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) focused on poverty reduction. The South St. Petersburg CRA is the first of its kind in Pinellas and is expected to generate more than $100 million in county and city funding to reduce poverty over 30 years.

A third-generation St. Pete resident, Mayor Welch lives with his wife of 30 years, Donna, and their two daughters.

Police Chief Anthony Holloway

Police Chief Anthony Holloway was the first Black police captain of the Clearwater Police Department and the second Black police chief of the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Beginning his law enforcement career with the Clearwater Police Department in 1985, Anthony Holloway retired in 2007. He was next selected as police chief for the City of Somerville, Mass.; however, in Feb. 2010, he rejoined the Clearwater Police Department as the police chief. Four years later, he found himself the chief of police for the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Chief Holloway earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management in 1999 and a master’s degree in business administration in 2001. He is a 2005 graduate of the course of study in Executive Strategic Management, Police Executive Research Forum and Senior Management Institute for Police at Boston University.

In June 2011, he was awarded a Certificate of Completion for the Senior Executives in State and Local government Program from Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, Executive Education. In 2015, he completed the Executive Leaders Program at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security, Monterey, California. The following year Holloway completed the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Executive Institute (Class #39).

Holloway is chair of the Florida Police Chiefs Association Subcommittee on Accountability and Societal Change. He is also the co-chair of the Law Enforcement Committee on Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association and co-chair of the Governance Board of the Executive Committee of Law Enforcement Information Exchange.

In addition to serving as a trustee emeritus with Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services, Chief Holloway also sits on the Board of Trustees of St. Anthony’s Hospital. In 2018, he was named a Distinguished Fellow at the Joint Special Operations University at MacDill Air Force Base for his contributions to a branch of learning associated with national security and special operations.

In 2021, he was named the 2020 Outstanding Chief Executive of the Year by the Florida Police Chiefs Association in recognition of his exceptional performance and support and advancement of the law enforcement profession. Last November, Holloway was appointed Commissioner for the Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation.

Chief Holloway is married to Attorney Andra Tod Dreyfus of Clearwater.

Dr. Frederic Guerrier

Dr. Frederic Guerrier’s motto is: ‘From the nursery to the nursing home’ because he strongly trusts in the doctor/patient relationship and how to improve his patients’ lives.

Board Certified in Family Practice, Dr. Frederic Guerrier completed his medical training at the University of Miami School of Medicine. His internship and residency were at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Pete.

He has had various academic appointments, including being chairman of the Department of Family Practice for Bayfront Medical Center. He has also received many teaching awards, including the Volunteer State Teacher of the Year Award in 1999.

In 2010, Dr. Guerrier was voted Teacher of the Year for three years running by Bayfront Medical Center Residents and the recipient of the Florida Academy of Family Practice 2019 State of Florida Family Physician of the Year.

He’s also an Associate Clinical Professor at the USF School of Medicine in Tampa. Dr. Guerrier has hospital privileges at Bayfront Health and St. Anthony Hospital.

Dr. Guerrier chose family medicine because he believes in the word “family.” Over the years, his motto has always been: “From the nursery to the nursing home” because he strongly trusts in the doctor/patient relationship and how to make his patients’ lives better.

He is an avid tennis player and has been volunteering at the St. Petersburg Free Clinic since 1982. He’s married with two children and speaks fluent creole, French and some Spanish.

Rev. Watson Haynes, II (posthumously)

The late Rev. Watson Haynes’ award was accepted by his wife, Valerie Haynes, and her sister, Rene Flowers.

Rev. Watson Haynes was a civil rights leader who greatly impacted the Tampa Bay region. He was a political, faith and civil rights leader. As president of the Pinellas County Urban League, he strived to lift people from poverty and addiction.

Haynes was a humble public servant who woke up every day with a commitment to fight for freedom, justice, and equality for his neighbors in Pinellas County. But above all, he was a dear friend to many.

He was appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist to the Florida Commission on Human Relations during his tenure in office and was reappointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Haynes was officially named president of the Pinellas County Urban League in 2012. There he worked hard to fight unemployment and worked to support Black veterans in the area.

Author and Journalist Jon Wilson

Jon Wilson (left) received the Dr. Raymond Arsenault Lifetime Achievement Award for his continuing efforts in recording and preserving African-American history. Arsenault presented Wilson with the award.

A native of Scottsbluff, Neb., Jon Wilson moved to St. Pete with his family in 1956. After graduating from the University of South Florida, he landed a job as a reporter and editor for the St. Petersburg Evening Independent and the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) for 37 years, retiring in 2007.

Wilson was then a communications consultant for the Florida Humanities until 2018. He co-authored with Rosalie Peck “St. Petersburg’s Historic 22nd Street South” and “St. Petersburg’s African American Neighborhoods.” Wilson is the author of “The Golden Era in St. Petersburg: Postwar Prosperity in the Sunshine City” and one novel, “Bridger’s Run,” published by Pineapple Press.

He is vice president of the St. Petersburg African American Heritage Association, and he and his wife, Becky, have three children and six grandchildren.

Wilson received the Dr. Raymond Arsenault Lifetime Achievement Award, which is an award in honor of Arsenault, a former professor, historian, and author who has dedicated his life’s goal toward the education and preservation of African-American history.

Arsenault has been celebrated as the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History and co-director of the Florida Studies Program at USF. Oprah Winfrey praised his gifted literary work “The Freedom Riders” on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”

His most acclaimed writings include “The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson” and “Arthur Ashe: A Life.” Arsenault has been a member of The Woodson African America Museum of Florida’s board of directors since its inception in 2006.

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