Many gifted educators make significant contributions to their local communities in addition to their dedication to their professions. Such is the case with James A. Dallas, a high school English teacher from Florida.
James A. Dallas was born in Monticello, Florida, on December 19, 1917, one of seven children born to parents Albert and Florida Dallas. Sadly, young Jimmie was orphaned before his twelfth birthday, so he was raised by his siblings. Following his high school graduation from Middletown High School in Hillsborough County in 1936, Jimmie enrolled first in Bethune-Cookman College and then in Florida A&M University. There he played trombone in the university’s marching, concert, and jazz bands. After he earned his degree at Florida A&M in 1941, Jimmie enrolled in the pharmacy program at Howard University. However, ten days after his admittance into the program, young James was drafted into the United States Army. Jimmie served his country as a First Sergeant in the 24th Infantry Division in Okinawa, Japan, from 1942-1946.
Once Jimmie earned his discharge from the army, he accepted a position as a teacher of English and public speaking at Dorsey High School in Miami, Florida. He later transferred to Blanch Ely High School and then Sunrise Middle School. “He was a good English teacher,” remembered former colleague James Crumpler. “The kids liked him. He related real well with them.” In his fourth year of teaching career, Jimmie married fellow educator Margie Sweet. The union produced three children: Ronald, James II, and Michele.
During these years, Jimmie was active in the local chapter of the NAACP. He became a leader in the Elks Lodge, and became a founding member of the Young Men’s Progressive Association. In addition to teaching and civic activities, Jimmie was also a successful businessman. He owned two nightclubs which hosted many famous musicians of his day, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and Lionel Hampton. He also owned a local grocery store and a pest control business.
After a distinguished career spanning 36 years, James Dallas retired in 1982. This American hero and chalkboard champion passed away on April 9, 2004. He was 86 years old. To honor him, a street in Fort Lauderdale has been named after him.