HAVANA — The city of Havana, a small town in neighboring Gadsden County that sits just north of Tallahassee, held a building naming ceremony Saturday morning to honor Florida A&M University alum Vernell Ross, one of the most prominent and longest active serving advocates in the community. The Havana Police Department complex was renamed the Vernell Ross Public Safety Building.
“There are so many things that happened in my life that has been very gratifying, but this tops it all,” Ross said. “I never dreamed as a little guy these kinds of things would happen to me, but you know I’ve had faith and trusted in God.”
Congressman Al Lawson and Florida House of Representatives member Ramon Alexander were in attendance to cheer on their fellow Rattler for his dedication and selfless service to the citizens of Havana.
“I’ve known him [Ross] ever since I was 16 years old,” Lawson, a native of Gadsden County, said. “He has been a great inspiration to this community…He is really loved in this community by everyone, and he was a great football player at Florida A&M too.”
Ross received an athletic scholarship to play football for Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. He played under the leadership of FAMU coaching legend Alonzo Smith “Jake” Gaither for four years, graduating in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.
In 1984, Ross was inducted into the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame.
Ross is a current member of the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame Committee and Board of Directors of FAMU’s Booster Club.
The 91-year-old icon held numerous positions in office for the town of Havana. He became the first Black elected mayor in Havana, and served on the town council for 36 years all while teaching physical education at the local Havana Northside High School for 30 years.
During his teaching career he managed to take on the task as Northside High’s head basketball coach, where he won three state titles. His teams advanced to eight state tournaments and he was named 1964-65 Coach of the Year.