Lincolnville Museum Honors Second Crop of ‘Living Legends’

Hank White walking on FSDB campus.
Henry White walks through the campus of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in 2014. White taught at the school for more than 30 years and his father Cary White was the first deaf black student to graduate from the school in 1925. [PETER WILLOTT/THE RECORD]

There are legends — and then there are living legends.

The difference, Lincolnville Museum Director Gayle Phillips, said, is that the latter are still around to enjoy the recognition bestowed upon them.

Four such citizens were honored at an awards ceremony Sunday at the Lincolnville Museum for their service and achievements in the local black community. They are Cora Tyson, Sandra Parks, Henry L. White Sr., and Barbara Edna Vickers.

The Living Legends awards program was established last year as a way to applaud the efforts of those who have “served in the trenches” and worked “toward the advancement of equality,” according to Phillips. Each of this year’s recipients, as well as those named last year, will also have the chance to add their personal story to the oral history archives project the museum is working on. Their names will also be added to a plaque on display within the museum on Martin Luther King Avenue.

Cora Tyson

Cora Tyson is so embedded into the fabric of Linconville’s past that she is considered one of the “house mothers of the civil rights movement,” according to local historian David Nolan, who introduced Tyson at the awards ceremony.

“I always thought that Florida’s greatest export in the 1960s was citrus,” Nolan said, “but it was actually talented black people.”

Tyson, a graduate of St. Augustine’s Excelsior High School, began a local restaurant called The Savory and enjoyed feeding people so much she worked as a cafeteria manager for several district schools. But it was her hospitality and willingness to see change that had Tyson and her late husband welcoming Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into her house to rest, dine and hold meetings during the civil rights movement.

Of that pivotal time in the 1960s, Tyson said, “Some of my trust in St. Johns County was broken ... and I think I still feel it. We have come a long ways but we still have a long way to go.”

Sandra Parks

Though she has continued to work to honor the legacy of her late husband, human rights activist Stetson Kennedy, Sandra Parks has more than made a name for herself while working first to desegregate schools and then close the achievement gap between minority students and their peers.

In her time on the St. Augustine City Commission, Parks helped to get HUD funding to rehabilitate and preserve dozens of houses in historic Lincolnville and also to establish the Willie Galimore Community Center.

For her part, Parks said her mother’s example of service to others was instilled in her at a young age.

“My mother taught me that each one of us is a unique blend of abilities and experiences that we can draw on to do what needs to be done,” Parks said.