City of Winter Haven Honors Two Local Legends for Black History Month
by James Coulter
One was a local educator who strived to offer equal educational opportunities for all. The other was Polk’s first black county commissioner. Both were black residents whose legacies are worth remembering and celebrating during Black History Month.
Two local legends were commemorated during the Winter Haven City Commission on Monday evening with proclamations dedicating two weeks in February after them in honor of Black History Month.
In 2021, city leaders determined to celebrate Black History Month by recognizing and commemorating notable residents whose legacies impacted the local community by furthering the causes of equality, diversity, and inclusion.
“Whereas Winter Haven recognizes how diversity and inclusion are woven into the fabric of American life and solidifies the foundation of strong communities…community leaders came together and identified local heroes who blazed new trails while demonstrating passion, dedication, empathy, and compassion for the community,” each proclamation read.
The first proclamation honored Althea Margaret Daily Mills, a local advocate for equal education, and the city’s first postal career employee and postal manager. To celebrate her legacy and accomplishments, the city declared the week of Feb. 13, 2023, as Althea Margaret Daily Mills.
Mrs. Mills was born in Pughsville in 1924, and passed away in 2008. Her career in the local postal system earned her the honor of having the Florence Villa Post Office in Winter Haven renamed after her as the Althea Margaret Daily Mills Post Office Building in 2021.
In addition to her work in the post office, she was also a civil rights leader and avid advocate for equal educational opportunities for black children. In her own words: “God created all men equally, this includes all, and all are entitled to equal education.”
The second proclamation was for Charles R. Richardson, who served as an educational administrator, city commissioner, mayor, county commissioner, and all-around public servant. To honor him and his legacy, the City of Winter Haven declared the week of Feb. 20, 2023, to be Charles R. Richardson, Sr. Week.
Mr. Richardson was born and raised in Bartow. He was one of the first black students integrated into Summerlin Institute (now Bartow Senior High) in 1965. He served as an administrator at Polk Community College (now Polk State College) before starting his career as a public servant, serving as a city commissioner, mayor, and later as the first black county commissioner in Polk County.
Even before his death in 2003, he remained dedicated to his role as an elected official despite his then-failing health, the Orlando Sentinel reported. As one of his co-workers was quoted as saying: “He was doing what he enjoyed doing, and that was benefiting the public at large.”