Downtown bus station named for Rosa Parks


Boarding the bus, Daniel Harmeling, recipient of the Rosa Parks Quiet Courage Award for his work in the integration process of UF, walks past an empty seat on the bus reserved in honor of civil rights leader Rosa Parks.

Brad McClenny/Special to The Sun
Published: Monday, December 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 30, 2008 at 10:42 p.m.

Fifty-three years ago today, Rosa Parks refused to yield her bus seat to a white passenger. That purposeful act of defiance was honored Sunday in Alachua County in a big way.

The celebration began with an awards ceremony at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church for three Gainesville residents who have demonstrated "quiet courage" against racism and oppression.

From that ceremony, the audience took a "Freedom Bus Ride" on three city buses to the downtown bus terminal. And there, the Rosa Parks "Quiet Courage" Committee unveiled the product of a year's work: a plaque dedicating the station as the "Rosa Parks Regional Transit System Downtown Station."

"It goes back to 'lest we forget.' From this point on our children will never, ever forget" said Karen Cole-Smith of the Quiet Courage Committee.

Cole-Smith said she hopes the bronze plaque, now standing on the corner of Depot Avenue and SE 3rd Street, will remind everyone of the power of one individual.

"It's indescribable just to know what one individual can do. One individual can make a difference. One individual can touch the whole world. How powerful is that?" Cole-Smith said.

Her committee raised close to $11,000 in one year for the monument and organized the elaborate ceremony.

However, this is the second year that the Rosa Parks Quiet Courage Committee has awarded people for their local efforts.

The late Joseph Judge was honored for his fight for equal representation in Gainesville voting districts.

"He was very influential in establishing District 1, ensuring the African-American community would have representation in government," said Cole-Smith as Judge was posthumously awarded.

She said Judge also fought against police brutality and developed laws to protect the rights of tenants in rental houses.

The first black teacher at Gainesville High School also received the "Quiet Courage Award" for more than a half-decade of service.

Leslie Cosby set the record straight about her experience in the newly integrated school.

"I feel like a fraud being here," Cosby said. "When I went to Gainesville High School, they made preparations for me. Every time I left my room I had a tall, black-haired gentleman escort me everywhere I went."

Cosby said the administration gave her five college preparatory math classes, allowing her to skip teaching introductory math.

She added that no students ever dropped her class.

The final recipient of the Rosa Parks award was Daniel Harmeling, for his work at the University of Florida to combat racist admissions policies.

"They only recruited students at white high schools, so we formed our own committee," Harmeling said. "We had to do this in spite of the administration."

Harmeling said that in the early 1960s he was threatened to be suspended because of his activity.

The work he and other faculty members did during the Civil Rights Movement has been "written out" of UF history, Harmeling said.

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