In 2013, St. Petersburg High School dedicated the Media Building to Mr. Davis and hung this commemorative plaque in his honor.

Mr. Vyrle Davis was the kind of man teachers learned from. The kind of man who told his students to sit up straight; and everyone listened. The kind of man who told racists, “Bring it on. I’ll be there.” With an undying commitment to enriching the experience of African American students, he did just all this and then some. He touched the lives of everyone he met.

Born in Tampa, he began his career as a public-school teacher. Moving up the ranks, he became Assistant Principal at Gibbs High School, and later the first African-American appointed to lead what had once been an all-white school— ”Old St. Pete High”. Davis later became Operations Director for Pinellas County Schools and was subsequently promoted to serve as the First African American Area School Superintendent in 1986, a position he held until his retirement in 1995.

In addition to the monumental steps he took to improve the education system, he co-founded the African-American Voters Registration Education Committee and the Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students. Davis also championed single-member political districts for both the Pinellas County School Board and the County Commission. In 2011, he was honored with The Regional Chancellor’s Award for Civic Leadership.

The community as a whole has a lot to thank Mr. Davis for. In the Tampa Bay Times, Deputy Mayor, Dr. Kanika Tomalin was quoted as saying, “Vyrle Davis reached out, and Vyrle Davis made a difference”. I think it’s safe to say we all aspire to be more like Vyrle Davis.

See more examples of people reaching out and making a difference, in this issue: Spreading Love & Community and MLK Day by Nicole Brand.

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