Hillsborough County, Fla. (CW44 News at 10) – “It’s so wonderful, so wonderful,” said Doris Ross Reddick, a local civil rights activist, during her 94th birthday celebration being performed and recognized Thursday by elementary students.
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“Back then? Oh lord, wait a minute now, let me go back then. What it was like…” she said.
Born into a family of educators, and a native of Tampa, Mrs. Ross Reddick is best known for her efforts in helping to desegregate Tampa Bay classrooms in the 1960’s. “Well, I had to prove the fact that I was able to do the job. I was not just here for decoration!”
She was the first African-American woman elected to the Hillsborough county school board – and the first of both to be voted as chair. Doris Ross Reddick Elementary in Wimauma was named in her honor in 2008.
“One of the things that a lot of people remember is the Minority Contracts and the Minority Contracts were limited… very limited that they would give to the black people,” said Reddick.READ MORE: UPDATED: Gwinnett Joins Other Metro Atlanta School Districts Requiring Masks
She established the district’s office of supplier diversity to ensure fair bidding practices for minority vendors.“But when I got on the school board, I said, ‘well this is really not right, you know. We gotta straighten this out a little bit’, you know. I just couldn’t stand what was going on and… some changes had to be made,” said Reddick.
In December of 1958, a suit was filed by black parents in the U.S. district court, alleging that the Hillsborough County School Board operated a racially segregated school system in violation of the U.S. Constitution according to the Commission on Civil Rights in Washington D.C.
The District Court’s decision to dismiss the suit was reversed in 1960 and The Court ordered a new hearing which was held in 1962. The Court declared the school district guilty of operating a racially segregated school system and, within months, a plan for desegregation in the schools was in place – all during the same time Reddick was efforting a fair education to all students.
“I just did what I thought was right.. and it made the difference,” she explained.
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Doris: “I think I was a pioneer for ALL women,” Reddick said laughing along with the crowd. “Just remember what you’re here for, not just a paycheck. In fact, not a paycheck at all, the children are the important factors here.”