Steve Jones a trailblazer
By Phillip Haywood
ST. PETERSBURG, FL — Can you imagine going to school with a group of your peers for nine years? Establishing relationships and forming camaraderie with some that may have lasted for a lifetime. Steve Jones perfected that and a lot more. If you were born and raised in St. Petersburg and are abreast when it comes to history around town, then you will have an idea about who Steve Jones really is. Just in case you don’t have idea of who he was, I will give you a brief overview about Jones.
Back in the 1960’s racial tensions were at an all time high. In other words times were very turbulent. There was a plethora of events that started to shape our country. For the most part there were things that were happening right before our very eyes in St. Petersburg.
Jones attended Jordan Elementary and 16th Street Junior High. However, 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. That is when Jones probably seized one of the biggest opportunities of his life by being handpicked along with seven other African Americans to integrate the first high school in Pinellas County by attending Dixie Hollins. Jones was very athletic so he decided to go out for the school’s varsity football team. Football coach Forest Page took notice to his athletic ability. During this time in 1963 having an African American quarterback at an all white public high school was virtually unheard of. He was the first African American to play in a high school football game sanctioned by the Florida High school Athletic Association. Funny as it may seem, he said, “Racism existed but it was never blatant. But I always had the feeling that there were subtle comments being made about me being Black.” Nevertheless the comments never bothered him because he knew his purpose for being at the school. What he thoroughly understood was that going to Dixie was an educational upgrade. If you really think about the situation during those times he had to be a special person to endure the things that would have bothered a man of lesser resolve.
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. Among other things, he was also looked at by the New York Mets as a potential prospect but he opted to attend college. He would go on to start as the quarterback at Toledo for two years and during his tenure they played in 1969 Tangerine Bowl. Jones would later make more history after graduating from Toledo, with Steve Mix a former NBA star who would later go on to play for the Philadelphia 76ers. Later, Jones became the First African American Certified Public Accountant for a firm called Ernst & Ernst in Toledo Ohio.
Last year I started the process to have Jones nominated to the Dixie Hollins Hall of Fame. However, the idea was met with much resistance by Sherry Brock who is an administrator at Dixie. Recently the nominating committee met but there has not been any news as far as Jones being enshrined into the Hall of Fame.
Finally, here is something to think about, the nominating committee is questioning his accomplishments after high school. But here is the question that I pose, “What about his accomplishment as being the first African American athlete at an all white school and playing quarterback? Also, graduating from the University of Toledo is a big accomplishment in itself, along with becoming the first African American Certified Public Accountant in Toledo, Ohio. Dixie Hollins should be proud to honor Jones simply because what he endured during a time when schools were not integrated. Here is the bottom line, African American high school football players should know who he is and will always be a trailblazer in my book. I rest my case. Is Steve Jones in your opinion worthy to be enshrined into the Dixie Hollins Hall of Fame?