Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 4, 2018
At their April 3, 2018 Regular Meeting and following an outpouring of community support, Fernandina Beach City Commissioners (FBCC) voted unanimously to name the auditorium in the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center the “Patricia A. Thompson Auditorium.”
Patricia Thompson, a lifelong resident of Fernandina Beach, has a long record of civic service and advocacy for the city’s African American Community. Since the age of 14, she has dedicated thousands of volunteer hours to mentoring the youth of the city as a cheerleader instructor, majorette instructor, softball coach, basketball coach and drum major. She has served as the President of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for 20 years in addition to serving in other local and regional African American organizations.
Thompson is perhaps best known to the community for having served on the FBCC from 1999-2002. She remains the first female African American elected to the city commission, where she also held the position of Vice Mayor from 2001-2002. She spearheaded the successful drive to rename the Elm Street Recreation Center to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center.
More than 500 community members signed a petition asking that the MLK Center auditorium be renamed for Thompson. Many community members, including former long-serving mayor Charles Albert, Jr., have spoken at commission meetings on Thompson’s behalf. Others who endorsed this action included Theresa King, former City Clerk Mary Mercer and Museum Volunteer Coordinator Thea Seagraves, as well as the Rev. Bernard Thompson, husband of the honoree.
Following passage of the resolution renaming the auditorium for her, Thompson addressed the FBCC. She thanked God, the mayor and commissioners, her family, friends and supporters. “I’m just grateful to God for this honor. I have done what I’ve always wanted to do, and that is to reach people. I thank the city for this honor.”
Mayor Miller announced that there would be a formal ceremony renaming the facility at a later date. He noted that the timing of the FBCC’s action coincided with the 50thanniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., making the occasion even more meaningful.