BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – For decades, Dick Blake remained a larger-than-life figure who touched countless lives along the Space Coast through his work as a coach and his activism in civil rights, education and politics.
Now, the former Rockledge council member is set to be honored during Black History Month with proclamations from Cocoa and Rockledge officials, according to News 6 partner Florida Today. A special program honoring the civic leader will also be broadcast from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6, on WWBC at 94.7 AM in Cocoa, 99.9 FM, Titusville, and 107.1 in Melbourne. The radio simulcast live feed will be streamed on floridatoday.com.
Blake, whose son Mike Blake is now mayor of Cocoa, was principal at Cocoa High for 23 years and served on Rockledge City Council from 1976 until 2016.
Blake, one of 10 children and the grandson of freed slaves, was known for his community involvement in everything from youth sports from the time he was a coach at Monroe High School, then Cocoa’s Black High School.
Tall and athletic, Blake played both basketball and football at the school in the 1940s. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Claflin University in South Carolina and master’s degrees from Columbia University in New York and Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
He returned to Brevard in 1955 to coach football and teach. Later in 1966, as the nation struggled through school desegregation, Blake was named as assistant coach at what would become Rockledge High. He became Brevard’s first African-American principal - after desegregation- when he was named principal at Cocoa High School in 1979. He continued to mentor students, teachers and others before running for political office in Rockledge.
The proclamations are the latest in a stream of honors for Blake. In 2018, the Brevard County School Board unanimously voted to name Cocoa Jr./Sr. High School’s stadium the Richard Blake Stadium.
“What an honor. It reminds me of all the people who’ve been so important in my life, all the people, the students, who tell me they have the love and respect for me that I have for them,” said Blake, a Cocoa native told FLORIDA TODAY at the time.