Editor’s note: The answer to a reader’s question kicks off our series of profiles of West Volusians who figure prominently in our community’s Black history.
The profiles will continue throughout the month of February. To suggest someone we should profile, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 386-734-4622.
My granddaughter goes to Edith I. Starke Elementary School. I was wondering who she was and what she did to get a school named after her.
– Reader question
Edith Irene Starke (nee Wagner) was a highly respected and prominent educator, community leader, and the first principal of the DeLand school that bears her name, which was originally named Parsons Street School (at 730 S. Parsons Ave.).
Born in Louisiana in 1908, Edith Starke was pursuing a nursing degree at Tuskegee University when she met her husband, Lancaster Starke, another important figure in DeLand’s black history.
They eloped and moved to DeLand, where Lancaster Starke became DeLand’s first black doctor. He also was the second black doctor named to the Florida Medical Association — his brother George, a doctor in Sanford, was the first.
Edith Starke originally began teaching in 1934 at Euclid High School, a former school for minority students (tracing its beginnings to 1886) that was demolished around 2011.
She and her husband bought food and clothing for the less fortunate people of DeLand and opened a soda shop on Voorhis Avenue for black teenagers during segregation.
She was named principal of Parsons Street School in 1957, and in 1962, the school was renamed in her honor. She retired in 1964, but remained a very active member in the community.
At the time of her death in 1974, she had more than 30 years’ experience in education and a master’s degree in education administration, and listing all the organizations, auxiliary clubs, boards and advisory committees she was a member of would double the size of this reply.