Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame’s Dick Blake Is Pioneer Athlete, Coach, Administrator
By SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME // March 8, 2014
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME SPOTLIGHT
ABOVE VIDEO: Dick Blake also got to know many of the black pioneers of integration in baseball who spent spring training in Florida. Players such as Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Maury Wills, Junior Gilliam, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays came to call Blake a trusted friend.
DICK BLAKE – 2013 INDUCTEE
• Paved the Way For Integration
• State Championship Coach
• Rank 5 Basketball Official
A history of athletics in Brevard County would most certainly include a chapter on Dick Blake’s extraordinary accomplishments.
The grandson of freed slaves and life-long resident of Rockledge, Blake was the seventh of 10 children in his family, eight of whom eventually earned college degrees. Attending Cocoa’s black Monroe High School, Blake starred in football as a wide receiver, in baseball as a first baseman and basketball as a 6-foot-5 forward-center.
His athletic prowess earned him a scholarship to Florida A&M University, where for four years he played both basketball and football. After graduating from college he taught and coached in Brevard, and in 1955 became Monroe High School’s head basketball and football coach, and taught biology and math at the school.
Blake’s basketball teams were powerhouses in the Florida Interscholastic Athletic Association in the era of segregated education. He coached Monroe High School to a third-place finish in the state in 1963, was runner-up in 1964 and captured then back-to-back state championships in 1965 and 1966.
Coaching at Monroe for 11 years, Blake was asked in 1966 to help pave the way for integration in Brevard County by becoming the new assistant principal at Cocoa High School, at what is now Rockledge High School.
School administrators included Bob Blubaugh, who later became the Brevard County School Superintendent and Abe Collinsworth, who later became Astronaut High School’s first principal before also serving as Brevard Public Schools superintendent.
FOSTERED RACE RELATIONS
Blake knew Collinsworth well from AAU basketball and as the coach of Eau Gallie High School.
“There was a basketball tournament that Abe organized back in 1966, bringing together not only all the white high schools in Brevard County, but also the three black high schools,” Blake said.
Eau Gallie and Monroe met in the championship game of the tournament, with Blake and Collinsworth as opposing coaches. Early in the tournament’s title game, Monroe’s quick guard, Alfonso “Butch” Dennis, stole the ball from Eau Gallie’s best player, Rudy Hannah, and sprinted toward the other end of the court for a layup.
But Dennis never made it to the basket. Hannah fouled him hard, shoving Dennis into the wall behind the backboard. Blake said Collinsworth took Hannah out and benched him for the rest of the game. It wasn’t about winning with him. The tournament was all about creating an environment to foster better relationships and understanding between races.
Monroe went on to win, 83-50, and several years later, Collinsworth and Blake would work together at the new Cocoa High School. Blake became a fixture at the school and, when the new Cocoa High School was constructed, continued his career in education there, becoming the school’s principal in 1978, serving in that position until his retirement in 2003.
Blake refereed high school basketball games for 33 years, earning an officiating Rank of 5, the highest-ranking possible based on testing and evaluations. He officiated from 1970 until his retirement in 2003, working both boys and girls contests and calling many state tournament games during that span.
LONGEST SERVING ELECTED OFFICIAL
Blake also got to know many of the black pioneers of integration in baseball who spent spring training in Florida.
Players such as Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Maury Wills, Junior Gilliam, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays came to call Blake a trusted friend.
Blake has spent 36 years on the Rockledge City Council, the longest tenure ever served by anyone in elected office on the Space Coast. He has two sons, Michael, Cocoa’s first black mayor, and Mark, and one daughter, Sheralyn.
Earlier this year, a city park in Rockledge was renamed in his honor. Dick Blake’s accomplishments as an athlete and sports official, educator and school administrator, elected community servant, and leader in civil rights and racial equality issues are legendary. We are proud and honored to induct him into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2013.
THE 2020 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 8.
TO MAKE A NOMINATION FOR THE CLASS OF 2021 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME, call 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@spaceCoastDaily.com