Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Local Historian Looks at 40 Years of City Progress

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Local Historian Looks at 40 Years of City Progress

Article excerpt

Byline: James B. Crooks

Having lived in Jacksonville for more than 40 years, I can describe many physical changes reflecting progress.

- Expressways (Butler Boulevard and Interstate 295).

- Shopping centers (The Avenues and Town Center).

- Schools (Mandarin, First Coast, Andrew Robinson and more).

- Parks (Timucuan Preserve).

- Hospitals (Mayo).

- Suburbs (Mandarin, Deerwood and East Arlington).

Downtown has a new library, courthouse, stadiums and riverwalks.

But I prefer to describe cultural changes that may better help us understand who we are as an evolving community.

EDUCATION

In 1972, Duval County was confronting disaccreditation of its high schools.

It had begun desegregation too often at the expense of African-Americans.

Since many schools lacked air conditioning, June and September classes were uncomfortable.

Since then, magnet schools, such as Stanton and Douglas Anderson, have achieved national recognition. More important, community support for quality education exists as never before.

The capstone may be the University of North Florida, a small, unknown commuter college hidden in the boondocks when I came to teach there in 1972.

Forty years later, it plays a vital role in the community with its 80,000 alumni and substantial impact on public education, business, health care and the arts. Much remains to be done from pre-K and beyond, but the momentum is positive.

ENVIRONMENT

Mayor Hans Tanzler in the early 1970s had just begun to clean up the polluted St. Johns River and its tributaries. Our air frequently smelled of rotten eggs.

In the 1980s, Mayor Tommy Hazouri curbed the odor pollution. Volunteers established the St. Johns Riverkeeper.

Threats to the environment remain from storm water runoff to the impact of global warming, but public opinion now recognizes that a clean environment is critical to our success as a city. …

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