RAINES HIGH SCHOOL WINNING BACK TO BACK STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS IS A MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENT THAT SOME WILL TAKE FOR GRANTED. IN FACT, WINNING BACK-TO-BACK CHAMPIONSHIPS IN ANYTHING—EVEN TIDDLY WINKS—IS DIFFICULT, LET ALONE A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP. IT IS SOMETHING THAT RARELY HAPPENS.
Kudos and proper Respect also to Mandarin High School on their first State Football Championship, but this is a post about Raines’ THREE Championships.
Let’s place a few things in perspective. The first public high school to win a State Championship was The Rev. Matthew William Gilbert High School from Jacksonville’s Eastside in 1958...back during the days of abject Segregation. Yet you would not have known it if you had to read it in the local press or see it on television. That was the Racism of the Media Then. Rev. Matthew William Gilbert, for whom Gilbert was named, was the pastor of Bethel Baptist Institutional Church, and later became the President of Florida Baptist Academy here in Jacksonville, which eventually evolved into Florida Memorial University, located in Miami.
Gilbert was a Segregated “Negro” high school. You know, that “Separate But Equal” thing. Black schools did not play White schools during those days. Black and White Students did not attend school together during those days. Of Special Note...William Marion Raines who is the Namesake of Raines High School was the principal of Matthew William Gilbert High School from 1938 until his death in 1950.
Even though the press called it a Black High School Championship, as did everyone else at the time, including the Florida High School Athletic Association, it WAS a State Football Championship, nonetheless. For those who scoff at Gilbert’s 1958 “Segregated” Championship against another Segregated Black High School, Gilbert’s Championship was as Legitimate as Segregated White High Schools Championships, and even more so because of the “hoops” Black schools had to jump through just to make it to the “next level.”
It was not Gilbert’s “fault” that White schools could not “legally” play Black schools, not that they would have wanted to anyway. In fact, the Florida High School Athletic Association would later name the 1958 Matthew William Gilbert High School Panthers, THE FLORIDA TEAM OF THE 1950’S. Gilbert High School Panthers of Jacksonville were so talented that future Olympian and NFL Hall of Famer, Bob Hayes played that year as a backup junior running back. Coached by the legendary Earl Kitchings, the Panthers finished 12-0, winning the Florida Interscholastic Athletic Association Black school state championship (as it was called then) with a 14-7 victory over Dillard (Fort Lauderdale) before more than 11,000 spectators, in Fort Lauderdale.
Jacksonville would go almost 40 years before another public high school would win a State Championship and that was Raines High School in 1997 with former Raines Alum, Welton Coffey II as Raines Head Coach. Welton’s parents, Cheryl Coffey, and Welton Coffey Senior were both students at Gilbert, and Welton Sr. was there when Gilbert won its Championship. Last year’s Raines Championship came 20 years after their first, and this year’s Championship comes 50 years after Gilbert’s Championship.
Even during those days of Segregation, the Eastside or “Out East”, as we and they would say, took a lot of pride in this Celebratory Achievement. And even though we live in an “Integrated Society”, Raines is the hub of several predominantly Black Neighborhoods, on Jacksonville’s much maligned Northwest Side, who also take Pride in Raines’ Signal Achievements.
Someone at Raines saw fit, why I do not know, and I think erroneously so, to call Raines The High School Harvard. With, Harvard’s history of Racism and Slavery that is not a Good Fit. What is a Good Fit is calling Harvard, the Collegiate Raines. Maybe it will inspire them to greatness, and to do the right thing.
In the meantime, Hats off and Much Props and Congratulations to the Late Coach Earl Kitchings for his Championship, Raines Former Head Football Coach Welton E. Coffey II for his Championship, and current Raines Head Football Coach, Deran Wiley, for Back-to-Back Championships, AND for all the many students on those teams Then and Now, who made all of this Happen.
TALK about your accomplishments...because...Unless WE Tell It...It Never Gets Told!