Doris Edwards: Honoring a legend who waterproofed Alachua County


Published: Friday, June 14, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 6:23 p.m.

Here in Gainesville we are so blessed to be surrounded by pioneers who have paved a bright path for many of our lives. Strong, stable, intelligent and classy individuals loved and taught us in the 1950s and ‘60s at Joseph William Elementary on Southeast 7th Avenue and Lincoln High School on Waldo Road, now Lincoln Middle School.

My focus today is on one living legend, Andrew R. Mickle. "Daddy Mick," as he is fondly known, equipped himself well academically for the task at hand. Mr. Mickle completed high school, served in the military and graduated from Bethune Cookman College and the University of Florida. He is married to the lovely Catherine Berry Mickle, who partners with him on many community projects and church activities. They attend Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. They have been married for more than 50 years and raised four sons: Dr. Darryl Mickle, Jeffery Mickle, U.S. District Court Judge Stephan Mickle and the late Andrew Mickle Jr.

Mr. Mickle has been an outstanding educator as a middle school, high school and college classroom teacher. He's managed a small business, served on a bunch of boards and received many awards.

Mr. and Mrs. Mickle became a close friends of Phil Emmer, who was instrumental in developing the Lincoln Estates neighborhood and ensuring fairness in housing for blacks in the 1960s. The Mickles purchased land and built one of the first beautiful homes in Lincoln Estates.

The amenity of a swimming pool at the Mickle home was a concern for older black parents and neighbors. Young blacks were afraid to go in the water, a fear that was handed down from the older generations. Most older blacks could not swim and would talk about the latest drowning as they sat together for their evening chit chat. Black parents wanted to keep their children safe in the 1960s by keeping them out of the water.

The pool at the Mickle home, however, has proven to be a life saving teaching tool for thousands of our black youth.

Mr. Mickle has superb aquatic experience, being the first swimming pool manager for the City of Gainesville Recreation Department from 1957 to 1976 and the first to coach swimming for Eastside High School from 1974 to 1976.

His swimming instruction at Lincoln pool produced swim champions and trophies galore as the swim teams would travel all over the state to compete. With hope and a prayer but little budget, they would pack up, encourage each other and meet the challenge on the road with anticipation.

This team of black youth were like family. They were passionate and determined to be the best ever because they were taught by the best (Andrew R. Mickle)! Some star player swim team members were Henry Kinsey, James Cleveland, David Cleveland, Brenadette Harper, Chip Caffey, Rudolph McDonald Sr, David Jones, Elray Moore, Charles Simmons (Skeet Bubba), Janice Henry, Ernest Davis, Buster Coleman, Maxine Jenkins, Diane Jenkins, Richard Adams (Boo Bear), Geraldine Anderson, Frank Coleman, Andrew L. Mickle (Drew), Darryl Mickle, Jeffery Mickle and Fuzzy, to name a few.

Mr. Mickle taught blacks to overcome the water phobia and master the art of swimming. These were fun days and the talk of the black neighborhoods in Gainesville as well! My mother and many other older black parents were so thankful that their children could finally be safe in and around large bodies of water.

Mr. Mickle has taught three generations of my family to swim. Several of the swim team champions from back in the day are related to me as well. Daddy Mick is a living legend who has been teaching swimming since 1957 and has no doubt waterproofed Alachua County.

He is still actively teaching swimming lessons at Mickle Pool in Southeast Gainesville (a pool named after him). So parents in Gainesville, Newberry, Hawthorne, Alachua, High Springs, Micanopy and even a couple from Ocala who keep driving your kids to Mickle Pool for lessons, I understand why a few miles won't stand between you seeking the giver of life-saving water skills — the living legend and master of aquatics, Andrew R. Mickle, Daddy Mick.

This is one time I know I can speak for all of us, when I say thank you, Mr. Mickle. For knowing your purpose in life. For being obedient to your calling. For teaching thousands of people young and old to swim for 56 years. For guiding each of us with a gentle but firm hand, correcting our mistakes while encouraging our strengths.

And thank you most of all, Daddy Mick, for giving each of us your unconditional, father-figure love. We send a splash of our love from our hearts to yours. See you at the Mickle Pool on Saturday!

Doris Edwards is a community activist who lives in Gainesville. A celebration honoring Andrew R. Mickle is being held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mickle Pool, 1717 SE 15th St. Admission is free.

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