Florida Baptist Academy
Jacksonville/St. Augustine, Florida
Era of Progress and Promise profiled the school in 1910. Florida Memorial University has made online catalogs and other materials available from as early as 1898. The image of Miss Sarah A. Blocker (right) is from the New York Public Library. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-70ab-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Florida Baptist College began when N.W. Collier and Miss Sarah A. Blocker led part of the teachers and students from Florida Institute at Like Oak to Jacksonville to find a location more conducive to education. The 1898 catalog shows a school of 185 students taught by a faculty of nine. While the catalog shows that it offered a four-year program leading to an A.B. degree, there were no collegiate students and only 21 students doing high school work; the remainder students were in elementary classes. In addition to the regular academic courses, Florida Baptist College offered classes in agriculture, music, elocution, and religion. The so-called “industrial courses” taught cooking, sewing and household management for girls.
The 1916 catalog for Florida Baptist Academy shows that enrollment at the school had increased to 556—including 34 theological students. Male students—called cadets—underwent military training and wore the uniforms. Female students now wore a school uniform—including an Oxford cap. The school had organized a band and offered a “high quality” quartet to perform at functions. Students had two literary societies—Shaw and Steven’s—that meet twice monthly. They also have chapters of the Y.M.C.A. and the Baptist Young People’s Union.
In 1918 the school moved to St. Augustine, and there took the name Florida Normal and Industrial Institute. In 1931 Florida Normal and Industrial Institute became a junior college, dropping the elementary grades. At that time enrollment settled in at just under 200 students. But with the college-level classes, student organizations increased, including subject matter groups such as a French Club, a Science Club, a Dramatics Club, and a Pedagogical Club. Musical activities increased with a chorus and a glee club.
In 1942 the Baptist General State Conference rejoined the St. Augustine School with Florida Baptist Institute at Live Oak. The merger created Florida Normal Industrial Memorial College at St. Augustine. At that time, the school became a four-year college, graduating its first class in 1945. Today it exists as Florida Memorial University with an undergraduate enrollment of more than 1,100 students.
Students at the Florida Baptist Academy in Jacksonville before 1910. Image from Era of Progress and Promise https://digital.ncdcr.gov/digital/collection/p249901coll37/id/4272
Bricks and Mortar
School property included eight and a half acres in the Campbell Addition in East Jacksonville “the most law abiding city in the South.” A three-story frame building measuring 105 by 42 feet contained class rooms with the upper two floors housing female students and teachers. The boys’ dormitory was also a three-story frame building. Among “school needs” listed in the 1913 catalog was $30,000 for a separate “main building.”
To accommodate increased growth, the school moved to St. Augustine in 1918, occupying a part of the Old Hanson Plantation, formerly operated by slave labor. This site was home to the school for half a century. By 1924 a brick main building called Anderson Hall was built. Other permanent buildings included two dormitories: Fisher Hall (men), and Bacon Hall (women), each housing 1150 students. The catalog called Hecksher Gymnasium the finest in the South.
Because of racial unrest in St. Augustine, the school relocated to Opa-Locka Florida in 1968. Today it is the only H.B.C.U. in the Miami area.
Main Building after the move to St. Augustine and before the construction of Anderson Hall in 1924. Image from Florida Memories https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/815
Team name: Lions
Color: Orange (According to the Florida Memorial University website, both the mascot and the color date from1929).
College Football Data Warehouse shows games against neighboring Edward Waters College in 1915 and 1916—both losses 0-6 and 6-12. The 1916 catalogue shows an image of a baseball team.
Football resumed at Florida Normal and Industrial Institute in 1929, when a team defeated Bethune-Cookman College, lost to Selden Institute of Georgia, and tied Florida A&M. The Dr. Roger B. Saylor website shows sporadic football games then up to the merger. The 1941 team won five games without yielding a touchdown. The Lions defeated Bethune-Cookman, Edward Waters, Albany State College of Georgia, Clinton (SC) Junior College, and Voorhees (SC) College.
Today Florida Memorial University is an NAIA school, a member of the Sun Conference in 13 sports.