Search for hidden graves underway at Florida high school


TAMPA (WFLA)- A grave search is underway in Tampa as the Hillsborough County School district tries to determine if there is an old African-American cemetery beneath King High School.

The St. Petersburg company Geoview is making a diligent effort to see below the surface and find out if there are indeed remains of African Americans buried here.

“We’ll provide an image to say we found something. If it’s two to three inches in diameter, it’s five to six feet long which is typically what’s associated with a grave.. but we can’t go through and say yes this is absolutely a grave,” said Mike Wightman, President of Geoview.

This all came to light last week when a citizen told the school district that king high, is site of the old Ridgewood Cemetery and that 250 paupers graves are here. Old images show the areas of interest which are behind a building and the stadium.

The area is now fenced off from students. But are there remains there

Drew Smith, the former president of the Florida Genealogical Society of Tampa, said based his research, it’s possible the remains could’ve been moved years ago to the Woodlawn Cemetery.  Smith said, in the 1980’s the Florida Genealogical Society did a survey on cemeteries in Tampa and found many of the names listed as buried in Ridgewood, also appear the their 8 volume survey as being at Woodlawn. But even that is a bit ambigious.

“Were the Ridgewood records all kept at Woodlawn or were they there because they were actually moved from Ridgewood to Woodlawn in the 1950s?  That part I can’t say,” Smith said.

So the answer will come and the true connection to the past is in every present step they take at King today.

“It’s still a shame how this was erased.  I think it’s important that if this is where it’s at, that our district is doing everything possible to make sure that this is not something that is erased,” said Corries Culpepper, Director of Safety and Risk Management for Hillsborough County Schools.

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