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‘It was opportunity’

Jacksonville honors high school’s first Black cheerleader


Pamela Baker-King stands second from right during a ceremony at a Jacksonville City Council meeting Monday.

The Jacksonville City Council honored a city schools alumna Monday, decades after she made history in the community.

City officials awarded Pamela Baker-King a certificate of recognition at a council meeting as an honor for her contributions as the first Black Jacksonville High School cheerleader and one of the first black students to attend Jacksonville City Schools.

Baker-King had many people to thank after she received the award, including city officials, her family, her squadmates and some of their parents, who made sure she felt welcome.

“Cheerleading gave me the confidence to stay focused, determined, committed,” she said.

Baker-King, who grew up as one of nine children raised by a single mother in public housing, said she transferred to Kitty Stone Elementary School after the fourth grade.

“It was not genetics,” she said. “It was opportunity.”

The City Council also discussed Monday several issues involving residents’ property. 

The council scheduled a public hearing regarding requests to amend several zoning ordinances. Mayor Johnny Smith said several residents who live in corner lots were unable to install privacy fences above four feet in height, or swimming pools in their yards, because the city’s code considers them to have two front yards.

Many of them discovered they had violated the zoning ordinances after they had made those changes, Smith said.

The council also held a public hearing on a request to rezone a property from a general business district to a two-family residential district. 

A man, who identified himself as the property’s former owner, said he bought it and tried to sell it, but was unsuccessful at first and decided to remodel it. Before he started, he said, a friend offered to buy it from him. 

After he sold the property, he said, they discovered it had been rezoned from a residential property to a business property for a short time, and wanted to have that reversed.

The council then held a first reading for an ordinance to rezone the property.

In other business, the council:

— Established a committee to appoint members to vacant seats on the Jacksonville Board of Education, including a board member, an “at-large” city resident, Smith and City Council members Terry Wilson and Andy Green.

— Heard from Fire Chief Keith Kadle, that the fire department saved hundreds of thousands of dollars when it refurbished a fire truck instead of buying a new one. He said the truck was safe, looked “great,” and is expected to last another decade.

— Heard from Board of Education member Marita Watson, who advocated for a sidewalk to be built between Jacksonville High School and Walmart. Watson said the sidewalk would promote a healthier lifestyle for students.

— Approved administrative leave for city hall and library employees during the period Tropical Storm Zeta left those buildings without power.

— Voted to install LED illumination on a wooden pole at the end of 7th Avenue.