By Tony McCray
The African-American Community in Pensacola and Escambia County lost a true warrior for civil rights and education on Wednesday evening January 4th, at the age of 88 as he battled ill health. He will be sorely missed as his advocacy for voting rights led him to join the 10 Black men that served as plaintiffs in the court case that halted the at-large voting in Escambia County. This led to Willie Junior, Marie Young, and, now, Lumon May serving as the elected representatives of the African-American community on the Escambia County Commission. That same lawsuit resulted in single member districts on the City Council that led to Cecil Hunter, Rita Jones, John Jerralds, and now, Gerald Wingate and Jewell Canada Wynn representing the African-American Community on that political body.
Jenkins served on the Escambia County School Board for 16 years which was fitting for an education advocate like himself, who fought for equality in education and equal opportunity throughout his adult life. He became a positive role model in the lives of many students as the first African-American teacher at Pensacola Junior College.
Born in Green Cove Springs, Florida, and raised in Sanford, he achieved the pinnacle of high school valedictorian. He earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from Florida A&M University, and a Master of Science Degree from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. from Florida State University. He was an instructor at Washington Junior College, the first black junior college in Florida, in 1957. Washington Junior College was acquired by Pensacola Junior College in 1965, and Jenkins continued teaching at PJC in the school’s biology department where he retired in 1991.
David Hawkins, the owner of Joe Morris Funeral Home, stated that the funeral was a very solemn and respectful event. Hawkins said, “You could hear those in attendance at the funeral telling stories about Dr. Jenkins during the funeral”! No doubt there will continue to be stories told about Dr. Elmer Jenkins in the future as the history of Pensacola’s African-American History is documented!