Prominent historical figures in Tampa will be honored with statues along Riverwalk

12/03/13 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: Bob Buckhorn, Tampa, Cyril Blythe Andrews, Cody Fowler, Kate Jackson, Peter Knight, Paulina Pedroso, Garfield Devoe Rogers


Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn unveils six statues honoring contributors to the city's development.

photo by Janelle Irwin

Six prominent historical figures in Tampa were honored in downtown Tuesday by the unveiling of brass busts in their likeness. All of the Tampans contributed to the community through either philanthropy or political activism.

More than 100 community leaders and relatives of those being honored crowded a patio along the Riverwalk behind the Tampa Convention Center to see the six statues that will be placed along the Hillsborough River. Each statue was designed from photos and survivor descriptions and was built atop solid granite slabs to be the exact height of its honoree.

“We set up a committee of real historians who can really quantify the contributions that people have made over a period of time. There’s certain rules and regulations about who can – I mean, you have to be dead for fifteen years so that rules most of us out.”

That’s Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on the selection of Cyril Blythe Andrews, Cody Fowler, Kate Jackson, Peter Knight, Paulina Pedroso and Garfield Devoe Rogers as the 2013 historical monument trail honorees.

“It’s important that we recognize the contributions of those who came before us. I mean, we didn’t do this by ourselves. Everything that you see here in Tampa, whether it’s bricks and mortar things or whether it’s the tone that this community is instilled with came from other people and many of those people are folks that we’re honoring today along the Riverwalk. They made historic contributions to who we are and for us to be able to tell their story is really important. We can’t ever forget them.”

Newspaper entrepreneur Cyril “C” Blythe Andrews was selected based on his work in reviving the Florida Sentinel after it was shut down during the Great Depression and furthering economic opportunity in African-American communities by partnering in the development of the Tampa Park Apartments and Plaza. Andrews’ bust was the first to be unveiled by Mayor Buckhorn as Tampa Bay History Center Curator Rodney Kite-Powell announced recipients’ accomplishments.

“As a publisher, Andrews grew in political influence and his endorsement was coveted by office seekers. A Mason of Elk, he was the first black appointed to the Hillsborough County civil service board. He was also appointed to the Florida State Advisory Committee on civil rights by the Civil Rights Commission in 1962, chaired the Negro advisory committee and served on the Mayor’s bi-racial committee and the committee on human relations.”

Another leader in furthering African-American rights in Tampa will be honored with a statue along the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa. Kite-Powell highlighted civil rights attorney Cody Fowler’s work as both city attorney and mayor of Temple Terrace.

“His leadership along with African-American leaders such as A. Leon Larry helped guide the peaceful integration of Tampa’s lunch counters in 1960 and led to greater economic opportunities for blacks. Fowler died at the age of 85 still senior partner of the law firm he founded.”

Two of the six posthumous recipients of a Riverwalk monument are women. Paulina Pedroso was the only honoree without descendants at the unveiling of her statue. Pedroso was a freedom fighter who was born and died in Cuba and she played an integral roll in winning Cuba’s independence from Spain. Also honored was environmentalist Kate Victoria Jackson.

“A woman of keen intelligence and enormous curiosity Jackson delved into subjects as diverse as rivers, stoves, bees and books and filled notebooks with her ideas. She pinned essays in the title of one, ‘If I can, I will’ epitomizes her legacy – she could and she did – or in the words of former Tampa Mayor D.B. Mackay, she would not be denied.”

A founding partner of the international law firm Holland & Knight, Peter Oliphant Knight, was among the six chosen for the 2013 additions to the Riverwalk monument trail. Knight was a Tampa City Council member and one of the organizers of the Tampa Gas Company and the street car system. The final statue unveiled was that of businessman Garfield Devoe Rogers.

“In 1905 with no money, G.D. Rogers began his trek from Georgia to Central Florida walking along railroad tracks and, it is said, selling railroad ties to buy food. In Bradenton, he worked as a tailor and dry cleaner and later secured licenses in real estate and mortuary science. He and his wife opened Roger’s Funeral Home which buried not only blacks, but paupers of any race.”

All six statues will be placed along Riverwalk between Channelside and Curtis Hixon Downtown Waterfront Park. Completion of Riverwalk has been one of Mayor Buckhorn’s priorities in office.

“And everyone who walks on this Riverwalk, a Riverwalk that will be completed by Thanksgiving of next year, a Riverwalk that’s taken six mayors and 40 years to get done – they will not just be walking on the water, they will not just be fishing – they will be reading about and learning about the story of this community and the people that made it special.”

In all there are thirty memorial statues planned for Riverwalk. Some, including John McKay Sr. and Henry B. Plant, have already been placed. Each statue is built with a plaque describing the honoree’s life and accomplishments and also include a QR Code with access to complete biographies on a smart phone.

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