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Remembering Great Educators and Great Men: Kenneth Tolbert and William Clark, Sr.


by Vanessa Woodard Byers


Two great men of the community recently transitioned and will be celebrated at funeral services in South Florida on Friday, March 9, 2012. These gentleman touched the lives of so many young people in Miami over the years. I know that phrase is used a lot when remembering those who have passed but in this case, know that it is an understatement.


I was a student at Miami Central when Mr. Tolbert joined the faculty. Central was experiencing some turbulent times with increasing integration of blacks in the area and the country's issues with the War in Vietnam. It was the best of times and the worst of times for many people. The community, though changing in its ethnic composition, was able to rally around its burgeoning athletics programs and its ever popular marching and symphonic band. The marching and symphonic bands became known throughout the country because of Mr. Kenneth R. Tolbert.


Not only was Mr. Tolbert a musician, bandsman and master teacher, he was a father figure and a gentleman . You can get an idea of his contributions and accomplishments by reading his obituary on the Florida Bandmasters Association website but you get a better understanding of his impact on students when you read the messages his former students posted on Facebook. Here are just two of them:


DuVonne T Moore: "A father to many...a leader, gentleman, mentor, confidante, teacher, disciplinarian, leader, about his business type of man. Mr. Kenneth R Tolbert had been many things to many people. I'm glad I was able to share a space in time with him; break bread with him; be broken and built back up with him - even moreso, I am glad that I was allowed the opportunity to 'give him his flowers' while he was still with us. He had never known that he was the father I wished I had...he let me fall so I'd learn to pick myself back up. Invaluable lessons in musicianship and life are what he gave me and I am just as proud now as I was 20+ years ago to have been under his guidance and leadership. God knows you will be missed Mr. Tolbert..."


Wayne White: "My deepest condolences to the Tolbert family. He was and always will be a driving force in my life. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to study under him. There are not many educators on any level who had so much passion and dedication, and cared so deeply for his students. He also KNEW what he was talking about. I can still see him on the podium with his fingers showing us an upside down 'V'. The pyramid concept blew away the competition from those so-called 'privileged' programs, and the marching band took care of all the rest. When i went to FAMU and made the '100', half of all the section leaders or assistant section leaders were former students trained by Mr. Tolbert. He was a musical genius and a phenomenal role model. Rest in peace."


Mr. William Clark, Sr. was an educator, guidance counselor and coach just to name a few of his roles in the community. He was a father to his own children and to many youngsters throughout Miami-Dade County. It seemed as if Mr. Clark coached practically every sport but I remember football, basketball and tennis. I also remember he didn't play the radio. I don't recall him having to do more than look at a child for them to straighten up.


Mr. Clark, showed young boys how to be men. He often used athletics to impart his lessons on life and he did not accept excuses. Here is a message posted on his son's page, William "DC" Clark.


Paul Lewis: "Wow, oh man , I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I pray that you & your family remain strong thru this trying moment in your life. You are a good guy William and now I know why. I remember your dad at Poinciana Park when I was a kid. He was a great person & everybody Loved him very much. He will be surely missed. May God Bless You & Your Family. Take care & be Strong. Paul"


These two gentlemen were special to thousands of children in Miami. Many of those children are now adults with children and grandchildren of their own. We know these gentlemen couldn't live forever, none of us can. We do know their legacies can live on through the people they mentored be they blood relatives or children they inherited along the way.


We need more men like Mr. Clark and Mr. Tolbert. May they rest in peace and may their lessons and legacies live forever.




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Shaneka S Dennis

Great article, may they sleep in peace.

Vanessa Woodard Byers

Thank you, Shaneka.

Volunteer Ecuador

Great article! may their should rest in peace, and we'll always remember their contribution.

brandi clark

William Clark was my father. What I will remember the most is his love of family and people. He always had a way with people. Whether it be be standing in line at a grocery store or sitting in the waiting room of a doctors office, counseling with, informing or just lending a kind ear was always his way. He was a giver and a devout Christian and he will surely be missed by my entire family. In the words of the late Lou rawls, "you'll never find......another live like mine" thank u so much for posting


This is a very good article. It's a tribute to those great men.

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