Alachua County trailblazer dies at 95

ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB)- A trailblazing educator, businessman, and civic leader in Alachua County, has died.

95 year old, Thomas Coward, passed away last week from natural causes.

He was a titan in the Alachua County community and made amazing contributions in so many different ways. Among them, playing a critical role in the integration of schools and public facilities in Alachua County.

He was Dean of Lincoln High School, and became the first Dean at Buchholz High School. Overall, he served Alachua County Schools for 31 years.

Mae Islar, used to teach in a classroom right next to his and says he’s a man of many firsts that paved the way for future leaders in Alachua County.

“The talent that he had and the barriers that he crossed and you know talking about a trailblazer, he blazed the trail for a lot of people," she said.

Coward owned a realty company and was the first black person to earn a real estate broker's license in Alachua County.

“What he did for Alachua County and what we’re still trying to accomplish. that's part of his legacy. The barriers he broke and he gave us the know how," Darry Lloyd, who knew him throughout his life, said.

In 1974, he became the County's first black county commissioner serving until 1992. He also served in the United States Navy during World War II.

"I particularly feel so lucky to have had such a supportive, loving father, he was just the greatest," Marva Coward, his daughter, said.

His funeral is planned for Saturday, December 30th at 1pm, at Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church.

His wife and daughter have asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Epsilon Omicron Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma, where there is a scholarship in his name or to the Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center.