School Board Votes to Name Cocoa Football Stadium After Space Coast Sports Hall of Famer Dick Blake
By Space Coast Daily // July 27, 2018
SERVED 40 YEARS ON ROCKLEDGE CITY COUNCIL
ABOVE VIDEO: The Brevard County School Board voted unanimously on Thursday evening to name the Cocoa Tigers football stadium after legendary educator, politician and coach, Dick Blake. He was inducted into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – The Brevard County School Board voted unanimously Thursday evening to name the Cocoa Tigers football stadium after legendary educator, politician and coach, Dick Blake.
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 on the Space Coast.
Inducted into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, his profile biography began very fittingly with the following words, “A history of athletics in Brevard County would most certainly include a chapter on Dick Blake’s extraordinary accomplishments.”
Alex Goins, a Rockledge youth football coach, community leader and is currently a candidate for Cocoa City Council District 1 said, “Mr.Blake is and will always be a legend in my eyes. He is the first black high school principal in Brevard County during a time when integration was being introduced in public schools.
“His leadership has motivated many people like me to climb to the top of the mountain and face adversity head-on. We all salute this living legend.”
Blake was the grandson of freed slaves and life-long resident of Rockledge, and 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.
He spent 40 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.
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