Proud to continue the legacy gas kinetic energy

Editor’s note: Today we introduce the History & Heritage column by Rodney Kite-Powell. Kite-Powell is director of the Touchton Map Library and Saunders Foundation Curator of History at the Tampa Bay History Center. His column will appear every other Sunday, alternating with Sharon Tate Moody’s Heritage Hunting column, which returns June 12.

This column is probably new to Times subscribers but may be familiar to most former Tampa Tribune readers as it had appeared in the Bay Life section of that paper for 34 years. The late Leland Hawes, a career newspaperman, originated the history column in 1982 and continued writing until 2007, three years after his retirement from the Tribune.

Historian Gary Mormino, co-founder of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s Florida Studies Program and author of numerous books on Tampa and Florida history, took over in 2007. After four years under Mormino’s studious hand, he passed on the column to me.

From 1949 to 1960, Donald B. McKay, former Tampa mayor and former publisher of the Tampa Daily Times, authored the Pioneer Florida page in the Sunday edition of the Tribune. From time to time, a young Hawes visited the elderly McKay at his Bayshore home to pick up copy for the Sunday paper. Though broken by a 22-year hiatus between McKay’s last page, published just after his death in September 1960, and Hawes’ first, the lineage is intact that connects today’s readers to a tradition that started 67 years ago.

Since January 2011, I have had the honor and privilege of writing about our area’s history on this page. I am humbled to follow in the esteemed footsteps of McKay, Hawes and Mormino, and equally so to be allowed to continue the tradition within the pages of the Tampa Bay Times.

I am the director of the Touchton Map Library and Saunders Foundation Curator of History at the Tampa Bay History Center, where I have worked for more than 21 years. I am a Tampa native and a graduate of the University of Florida and the University of South Florida.

I have written one book, History of Davis Islands: David P. Davis and the Story of a Landmark Neighborhood, and I have lectured at the University of Tampa and the University of South Florida, where I will start teaching a new class on Florida history this fall.

I also have long ties to my predecessors. During the summer before my senior year at the University of Florida, I wrote a letter to Hawes asking if I could help him in any way with his history page. I obviously had no idea how he did the page, but he was very kind and gave me an opportunity to contribute an article. That piece, on aviation enthusiast Roslyn Burritt, appeared on the history page Aug. 7, 1994.

Over the years, we’ve covered an incredible variety of subjects, themes, events, milestones and personalities on the history page. From gangsters to cigar workers, American Indians to European explorers, military history, pioneer history, and neighborhood history, plus car races, horse races and political races.

There remains much to explore, though. In the weeks and months (and maybe years) ahead, I hope to enhance what McKay, Hawes and Mormino have done, introduce readers to new topics and revisit some familiar themes and look at them in a different light.

I also encourage you to let me know if there are any topics you are interested in. Want to know more about a particular home, person, group, or neighborhood? Curious about our area’s role in national and international events? Send me an email and your question may make it onto a future history page.

Rodney Kite-Powell is the director of the Touchton Map Library and Saunders Foundation Curator of History at the Tampa Bay History Center. He encourages your questions and comments. He can be reached by email, [email protected], or by phone, (813) 228-0097.