The “The Magnificent 12” were honored at a reception held by the Association for Florida Colleges.
In 1949, under the leadership of Gov. LeRoy Collins, Florida encouraged local school boards to create junior colleges for African-Americans and the nation’s first was later opened in Pensacola, Fla.
In the mid-1960s, Florida faced a period of desegregation. As part of the state’s desegregation plan the 12 junior colleges were merged with the newly created Florida community/junior college system.
The purpose of the wall dedication was to honor the history of the first 12 presidents who founded the first junior colleges in the state of Florida.
The Jan. 31 event highlighted the role the colleges played in the formation of the Florida College System. Current employees and family members of the former administration attended the event.
“This is something our foundation has worked on for 10 years now,” said Andre Hawkins AFC foundation chair. “It was only benefiting that the AFC foundation do something about this and the month of February for Black History Month couldn’t be any better,” Hawkins said.
Among the many that were in attendance at the dedication was Carmen Floyd, professor at Indian River State College and daughter of Lincoln Junior College President Leroy Floyd. She described her personal reflection about how her life growing up is being portrayed in the exhibit
“Its overwhelming. The pride that I feel is overwhelming,” said Floyd. “The gratitude of the recognition actually happening is overwhelming. The opportunity to not only be a part of this wall dedication but to witness the hard work that my father put in is so amazing. This is something the presidents and students truly deserve.”
There was also a moment of special recognition for former Florida A&M President Walter Smith noting the hard work and dedication he contributed to the research and development of the “Magnificent 12.”
“It is such a wonderful feeling to see all my hard work become the focal point of this event,” said Smith. “After coming home as a Korean [War] veteran I realized how important these black junior colleges were to Florida and most of all blacks.”
The wall consists of photos and a brief bio about each president and is permanently placed on the fourth floor of the AFC building at 113 E. College Avenue.