Byline: LINDA McDONALD, River City News correspondent
She is described as a peacemaker, bridge-builder and equality trailblazer.
Students, teachers, elected officials and community members gathered Dec. 11 to honor her at the 14th annual mayor's breakfast. Former Secretary of State Bruce Smathers was instrumental in spearheading the event as a way to recognize the achievements and legacy of Mary L. Singleton, a Jacksonville icon. Called the Memorial Day for Justice, Peace and Social Harmony, the breakfast is presented by The Mary L. Singleton Foundation.
In 1967, Singleton was one of the first black women elected to the Jacksonville City Council. She went on to become a state representative and Florida's first black supervisor of elections under Smathers. Singleton died of breast cancer Dec. 7, 1980.
Before her political career, she taught at Matthew Gilbert High School and then at Edward Waters College. When her daughter died of breast cancer, Singleton raised her two granddaughters. One, Leslie Scott Jean-Bart, is chairwoman of the breakfast.
"She was a calming force with a unanimous gathering of supporters across the community: from the poor to the affluent community, and from the white to the black community," Jean-Bart said. "In December, people are thinking about peace, justice, community and the breakfast brings the community together."
The annual breakfast is the culmination of hard work by Duval County elementary, middle and high school students. The foundation sponsors educational contests and winners are recognized at the breakfast. Elementary-age students participate in a bulletin board-decorating contest. Middle school students have a picture contest, and at the high school level there is an essay contest. There also is a $1,000 criteria-based scholarship contest each year, with three recipients in 2003. This year, more than $6,350 was presented to the contest winners.
At the elementary level the teacher and class receive the cash awards. For middle school students the award is split evenly between the student and teacher. The high school essay contest winners receive the full award. …