Home Penny blacks Pioneering architect Joseph Middlebrooks and dynamic Anna Wyche lived well

Pioneering architect Joseph Middlebrooks and dynamic Anna Wyche lived well

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The past few months have seen the deaths of prominent architect Joseph Middlebrooks and Anna Wyche, the wife of a pastor who has contributed so much to our community.

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One of the things I’ve always felt compelled to do as a journalist – a black journalist – is to tell the story of my people. Very often this involves writing an obituary, informing the community of the deceased’s contributions. It is not always an easy task. Not because their stories are unworthy, but rather because I feel so inadequate.

Today I want to share the stories of two lives well lived. They are Joseph Middlebrooks and Anna Augusta McCleskey Wyche.

First African-American chartered architect registered in Florida

Joseph Middlebrooks was born on December 31, 1941, a few weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which plunged America into World War II. It was also a time of heightened Jim Crow-ism and in Shellman, Georgia, the small rural town where Middlebrooks was born to Albert and Maurene Middlebrooks, the future offered little to intelligent young black people like Middlebrooks. Neither did the small rural town of Pahokee, Florida, where her family later moved.

Despite this, Middlebrooks, the second of seven siblings, excelled and graduated first in his class of 1959 from Lakeshore High School in Belle Glade. In 1960 he enlisted in the United States Air Force and served until 1964. He then enrolled at Howard University, enlisted in Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and graduated in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.

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An undated photo, left to right, of Joseph Middlebrooks and Dr. Samuel H. McClendon of Florida Memorial College in Opa-locka. Miami Herald File | Martin Aronow

In 1970, he obtained a master’s degree in architecture and urban planning at Yale. His degrees earned him dual appointments at the University of Miami’s Center for Urban Studies and the Department of Architecture. Later, he was named Emeritus Professor of Architecture, an honor bestowed on esteemed professors who are leaders in their fields of study.

Middlebrooks continued his work quietly, never focusing on himself, and became the first registered African-American licensed architect in Florida. He then established his own company, Joseph Middlebrooks and Associates, Inc. For his dedication to his profession, Middlebrooks has received awards and accolades, including the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year, the Miami Herald Pacesetters Award, and a commendation plaque from the town of Opa-locka for the outstanding design of a state-owned multi-service center in the town.

One of Middlebrooks’ many passions was to help the betterment of people, especially people of color. Thus, as an urban planner, he played a major role in creating a master plan for the upgrading of several long-neglected historic black neighborhoods in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. He participated in many public programs and retired in 2011 as a professor of architecture and urban planning.

Today, Middlebrooks’ life work resides in the University of Miami archives, which includes much of his research papers, administrative records, plaques, awards, drafts, development plans, architectural drawings, urban and development reports, to name a few. The collection is open for research at the University of Miami.

Middlebrooks died on November 25. He was the father of two sons, Edwin Jabari Middlebrooks and Jameel Brandon Middlebrooks, and the grandfather of two children, Jayden Jeanette and Jordyn Ann Middlebrooks.

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Anna Augusta McCleskey Wyche.

The pastor’s wife is considered the “mother of our community”

As impressive as her name is, I’m sure not many people knew about Anna Wyche or what she did to improve the lives of others in our community.

First and foremost, Anna was a pastor’s wife. In all directions. She was truly a woman of faith, and in her spirit and actions her first duty was to help her husband, Reverend Dr. Freeman Wyche, Sr., now Pastor Emeritus of Liberty City Church of Christ, Minister People. and the community he was called to serve. And she was a mother – not just to her own children, but to any child who needed a comforting hug or a word of encouragement.

Dewey Knight III remembers Anna as a “mother of our community”.

“She lived in the parsonage of the church, directly across from the Liberty Square Housing Project. Many of the young girls living in the project looked up to her and were blessed to have her,” Knight said. “She was a lady of such quality, such dignity, whose home always had an open door for those in need. She treated the young people who came to her door with love and respect, and all young girls who knew her wanted to be like her.

Knight and Wyche’s son, Kermit, played football together at Northwestern High School. “She was like a mother to the students at the school. We loved her for her willingness to lead by example. Some of the young people at Northwestern came from some of the toughest situations and she was always there for them. She was truly a mother from our community,” he said.

Anna Wyche was born in Tyner, Tennessee, a small community just northeast of Chattanooga. She was the eldest of seven children born to William Miles and Mary Elizabeth Burnette McClesky. She attended local schools and graduated second in her class in 1955 from Booker T. Washington School in East Chattanooga. In September of that year, Anna and Freeman Wyche, then a dashing young airman in the United States Air Force, were married in her parents’ living room.

Anna adapted to life as a military wife and lived in England, where her husband was stationed, in the early years of their marriage. Their family grew (they had six children, three of whom died shortly after birth: twins JoAnn and ZoeAnn, and Augustus). Besides England, the Wyches lived in several states, including New York, California and Texas, before settling in South Florida after Freeman Wyche was discharged from the Air Force.

As well as being the wife of a military man and a minister, during her lifetime Anna had also been the wife of a firefighter and a pioneer of desegregation, holding many positions as “first blacks”. “. Still, it had always been Anna’s dream to finish her studies. She had suspended her goals when her husband was called to the ministry. But when she was in her mid-40s, Anna went back to school and earned an Associate of Arts degree from Miami Dade Community College. Later, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Barry University.

She was 50 at the time and she started running.

During her professional career, Anna served as an adjunct counselor at Miami Dade College. She retired in 2000 after a 17-year career as the High School Assistance Program (CAP) counselor for Miami-Dade County Public Schools at Miami Northwestern Senior High School. She was a member of the Alpha Delta chapter of the Phi Delta Kappa Sorority, Inc., where she served as a basileus for four years. She also served as a regional advisor for the Kappa Omicron Tau (KOT) College Guidance Group for young women wishing to become teachers.

Additionally, she has been a den mother for Cub Scouts, a mentor for Take Stock in Children, chair of the PTA/PTSA for elementary, middle, and high schools, and an Easter Seals volunteer.

She was also Southwestern Christian College’s (an HBCU school) coordinator for the National Dinner Day Banquet for South Florida for over 30 years. She served as national chair of the Bowser Women’s Scholarship at Southwestern Christian College and coordinated several fundraisers including Women in White – Men in Black, The Fall Festival, and the Penny King and Queen program which awarded a scholarship to Southwestern Christian College.

Anna loved the Lord and his church. For decades, she bought gifts for every member of the Liberty City Church of Christ and handed them out at holidays, birthdays and family gatherings.

Anna also loved people. His favorite greeting was, “Hi! I’m glad to be here!” She died peacefully at her home on January 6, with her family by her side. She was 84 years old.

In addition to Freeman, her husband of 66 years, Anna is survived by her sons Freeman II (Alicia) and Kermit (Bridgette), and daughter Zoe T. Madison (Davie); six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

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Bea L. Hines can be contacted at bea.hines@gmail.com