Blacks In Government

History of the  Black community in Lakeland fl 1885 - 1985

Professionals in the Community






Legal & Political





Yvonne Roberts


Elsie Dunbar


Paul Diggs

Community Leader & Social Activist

Rev Russell Odom

Director, Neighborhood Service Center

Negro Auxiliary Police 1952

First Black Police Officers

Lakeland's Black community began receiving public facilities and services around the 1920s.  While the white community was funding projects for its section of town, it made smaller distributions to its black neighbors.


The funding was targeted mostly at facilities for schools, housing and recreation.  The Black facilities in many ways were offered to accommodate Blacks who were only getting a measly amount of the funds available for public services.


Over time, a number of Blacks were appointed to oversee the public projects and programs for Blacks



Diggs, Paul





Duke, Martin










Dunbar, Elsie



Hodge, Thomas




King, Samuel




McCaskill, Jenny



Niblack, James





Negro Auxiliary Police




Odom, Rev Russell






Pickett, Edward




Riles, Larry




Roberts, Yvonne





Shields, William




Williams, Samuel



Lakeland Housing Authority




Director, Negro Recreation Program












Police Officer




Police Officer




Fire Fighter



Battalion Chief, Fire










Director, Neighborhood Service Center (NSC)





Police Officer




Fire Marshall









Director of Lakeland Housing Authority



Police Officer



Managed Black housing projects including Lake Ridge and Washington Park.  Also, social activist and entrepreneur.


In the late 1930s, he lead protest against County decision to shut down schools for black children for four months so the children could be put to work picking strawberries.  He won the battle but lost his job.  He moved to Washington, DC.  Also father of Floretta Duke McKenzie.


Served as the first librarian at Lakeland's Negro Library.


One of the first four Blacks to integrate the Lakeland Police Department


One of the first four Blacks to integrate the Lakeland Police Department.


The first Black female fire fighter in Lakeland's Fire Department.


A Kathleen graduate in 1981, he became the first Black Battalion Chief in Lakeland's Fire Department.


Blacks who were deputized to police the Black community.  They could detain Blacks and initiate an arrest a Black only--no whites.


Expanded services and groups served by NSC which provided clothing, a food pantry, training and educational programs for low income and elderly residents.


The first Black hired as a police officer for the Lakeland Police Department


The first Black in Lakeland's Fire Department to earn the rank of Fire Marshall


Succeeded Elsie Dunbar as librarian of the Negro library--later named after attorney Larry Jackson.


Managed Lakeland public housing including Lake Ridge, Washington Park and Moorehead


One of the first four Blacks to integrate the Lakeland Police Department.

Negro Library

Page Under Construction

Larry Riles

Fire Marshall

Jenny McCaskill

Fire Fighter

James Niblack

Battalion Chief

Lakeland Fire Department

The information displayed in this section is a small portion of information about the businesses and professionals in Lakeland's Black community during the first 100 years.   We know there is more.  Contact Us if you have information like pictures you don't mind sharing.