Longtime Hillsborough County School Board member and educator Doretha Edgecomb will retire when her term ends in November.
- Doretha Edgecomb has been at Hillsborough schools for 52 years
- Edgecomb was teacher, principal and school board member
“This has been my life for 52 years,” Edgecomb said. “I’m a product of the school district. I’ve seen it change over time.”
Edgecomb is retiring from the school system where she started as a kindergartener at the defunct Harlem Academy in Tampa.
Her grade school experience was much different than today. Edgecomb grew up in the Jim Crow era.
*Doretha Edgecomb graduated from Middleton High School. (Courtesy of Edgecomb)
“There was a water fountain that said 'black,' there was [one that said] 'white,' ” Edgecomb recalled. “You understood that before you went downtown to shop, you couldn’t eat at the lunch counter.”
Edgecomb’s classes were segregated, too. She said black students got the hand-me-down" school supplies from white children.
“It was just the way it was,” Edgecomb said. “Did we challenge and ask questions? Absolutely we did. My parents, like most parents of children in that time, talked about how those were the laws of the land and we had to follow the rules.”
But Edgecomb’s world changed when she graduated from Middleton High School in 1960 and left for college in Alabama.
“I took part in the civil rights marches in my small college town with the dogs, the water hose, the clubs, that kind of thing,” she said. “I felt it was my responsibility and my obligation. If I wanted to see change, I had to be a part of that change.”
Those ideas motivated her entire career. She rose from the ranks of teacher, to principal, to school board member. Amid that success was also personal tragedy.
Her husband, George, was Hillsborough County’s first black judge. He passed away from leukemia at only 33 years old. The courthouse downtown now bears his name.
*Edgecomb's husband, George, was the first black judge in the county. (Courtesy of Edgecomb)
Through the tough times, Edgecomb says she focused on her calling: helping students. That’s the legacy she hopes to leave behind.
“I hope it is most of all that I made an impact on the lives of children and families in this community I’ve served,” Edgecomb said.
Edgecomb plans to remain active in the community even after her retirement.