East Tampa park honors civil rights leader Clarence Fort

In honor of local civil rights activist Clarence Fort, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Tampa community leaders announced the opening of the Clarence Fort Freedom Trail this afternoon. The park is located in East Tampa on Osborne Street. It includes a half mile decked trail around what just a year ago was an abandoned, barb wired retention pond, filled with trash. There are also eight fitness stations and 110 Palm and Cypress trees planted to provide shade to visitors. For now there is little water, but the retention pond is now filled with precious native plant species that have already grown tall and beautiful.

Clarence Fort has been referred to as a Tampa civil rights pioneer; having led the first counter sit-in in Tampa at the age of twenty, he has since made equal rights opportunity and civil rights his life’s pursuit.

Mayor Buckhorn described September 14, 1960, when lunch counters were integrated. He says as the president of the NAACP Youth Council, Clarence Fort peacefully led fifty Blake and Middleton High School kids to the lunch counter at Woolworth’s Diner on Franklin Street.

He reminded the audience that 2014 marks the 50-year anniversary of the Civil Rights Act being signed into law. Buckhorn believes that Tampa stands apart from other cities, because we were able to achieve integrated lunch counters without the kind of violence experienced in places like Birmingham. 

“We did it because this community has recognized, to this day, that what makes this city special is that we are stronger together and that our diversity makes us more competitive," said the Tampa Mayor.

Fort thanked the audience for making this day one of the highlights of his life. He says that Mayor Buckhorn made him a promise many years ago, and that today he kept his word. He also thanked colleagues. 

“I stand here today because they refused to let my name and my efforts fade away.”    

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