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Solomon David Spady

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Soloman David Spady

Solomon D. Spady (1887-1967) came to Delray in 1922. He was the third African American public school principal/teacher assigned to Delray Beach. He came here upon the recommendation of Booker T. Washington, the founder and president of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Mr. Spady’s tenure lasted thirty-five years during which he became one of the most influential African Americans in Delray Beach.

Mr. Spady was born January 17, 1887 in Cape Charles, Northampton County, Virginia. He completed his education in the public schools there and graduated from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1912. He stayed on to teach at the Institute for one year. The following year, Mr. Spady taught physics at Virginia Union University. In 1914, he received a teaching certificate from the state of Virginia and began his career in public education in Cape Charles, Virginia. Mr. Spady became affiliated with the New Farmers of America, the largest black farm youth organization in the world. During this time, he formed a lasting acquaintance of the renowned agricultural chemist, Dr. George Washington Carver.

In 1922, Mr. Spady accepted a teaching position in Delray which also carried the responsibility of principal. The name of the school, which was established in 1895, had been changed from Delray Colored Number 4 to Delray County Training School. The school had an enrollment of a hundred children in grades one through eight. In 1934, under his tutelage, the student body grew to 336 in grades one through ten. In 1939, the first twelfth grade high school graduation was held. In 1937, the school was renamed George Washington Carver High School.

“Prof”, as Mr. Spady was affectionately called, was principal but he also taught woodshop and agriculture classes. His students competed with others at the local, state, and national levels. In 1936, one of his students, Lester C. Albert, received the Superior Farmer Award by the National Organization during ceremonies in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. His class instruction included working with his “Boys” to cultivate crops on ten acres of land and to prepare them for sale to the public. There were trips to Tallahassee for the judging of agricultural contests. On several occasions, his students won state agricultural championships. His woodshop class projects included painting the school building, erecting steps, repairing furniture, and repairing farm tools. They also made the desk that he used in his office. Mr. Spady also attended summer school to keep abreast of higher education.

Mr. Spady planned a functional course of study as principals were expected to do at that time. The course trained students so that upon their graduation they were able to excel in outstanding institutions of higher learning such as Tuskegee Institute, Hampton Institute, Atlanta University, South Carolina State, Morris Brown University, and Florida A and M. He also organized extra-curricular activities that included a drama club, two literary societies, a glee club, sports teams, a parent teacher association, and at least three entertainments that brought the community together through the school.

Mr. Spady always encouraged students to strive to be the best at anything they did. Besides working hard at school, Mr. Spady also worked in the community. His community work included being an active member of Mt. Olive Baptist Church where he served as church clerk for more than twenty years, Sunday School Teacher, Baptist Youth Teacher, and group leader of church rallies. Mr. Spady was Grand Master of Lodge N. 275, head of the Order of Good Samaritan, and a few other service organizations and chairman of the local Red Cross drive.

On June 2, 1926, Mr. Spady married Jessie B. Green, the daughter of a local prominent family. They never had children of their own. His home, at 170 Blackmer Street which is now NW 5th Avenue, was constructed in about 1925-1926. It was a two story single-family residence, rectangular in shape, and stucco over frame construction with a stone foundation. That was considered a step above the other homes that were primarily wooden structures. It was and still is the Mission Revival style, a very distinguishing architectural style with the rough stucco finish on the exterior. It had eight rooms, four rooms upstairs and four rooms downstairs. The roof of the porch is flat, outlined with copper trim. The openings of the original screen porch have been enclosed with aluminum awning windows. A chimney projects from the south facade wall and is capped with a bell tower covering. It was the first home in the area to have indoor plumbing, a telephone, and electricity. He also had an unattached garage for his automobile. This is the building EPOCH has chosen for the S. D. Spady Cultural Arts Museum in honor of Professor Spady.

In 1958, a new high school building was erected on S.W. 12th Avenue in Delray Beach. Carver High School moved to that site and the old school building became an elementary school. It was named in Mr. Spady’s honor as S. D. Spady Elementary School.

Mr. Spady served as principal for twenty-eight years; after which he served seven years as a classroom teacher retiring from the county’s public school system on May 28, 1957. Shortly afterwards he returned to his hometown in Cape Charles, Virginia.

When asked about his philosophy, Mr. Spady said, “My philosophy is simple – God, country and the people first; self last. Face your daily problems prayerfully; keeping in mind that the highest service to God and to yourself is to serve your fellow man.”

Mr. Spady departed this life in Cape Charles, Virginia, November 25, 1967 at age 82. His legacy lives on in the lives he touched.

In 1998, the city of Delray Beach nominated Mr. Spady for the GREAT FLORIDIANS 2000 award. He was selected as an Unsung Hero posthumously. His family accepted the award Sunday, February 28, 1999 at the Trinity United Methodist Church in West Palm Beach, Florida. A replica is displayed in the museum.

By Vera Farrington

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