St. Augustine’s Dr. Otis Mason, the first Black elected superintendent in Florida, dies at 95

Dr. Otis A. Mason, the first Black elected school superintendent in the state of Florida, died earlier this month in St. Augustine. He was 95.

A service to honor Mason is planned for Friday and the wake service begins at 5:30 p.m. at St. Paul AME Church in St. Augustine. The Celebration of Life Service takes place on Saturday and viewing by the public is from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. The Celebration of Life Service begins at 11:00 a.m. at Anastasia Baptist Church in St. Augustine. This service will broadcast livestream and can be viewed online at

Mason made his mark in education and community service.

A FAMU graduate, he served as a teacher, a supervisor of elementary education, a principal and was the superintendent of St. Johns County for eight years before he retired in 1992.

An elementary school on County Road 207 now bears his name.

In his position as supervisor of elementary schools, Dr. Mason was instrumental in implementing the full integration of St. Johns County schools. During his administration, more Black employees were appointed to key positions such as principals, assistant principals and administrators than ever before.

Mason graduated from Excelsior High School, St. Augustine’s first African American public high school in 1946. In the high school yearbook, he listed his aspiration to one day become the superintendent of schools, something that was totally unheard of during the height of segregation. Later, he began teaching at his alma mater, Excelsior, in 1950. Due to the Korean conflict, his first teaching year was cut short and he was drafted into the US Army. After serving two years in the Army, he returned to the classroom at Excelsior. The following year, he was assigned to work at the new Murray High School as a science teacher and assistant football and baseball coach. In 1960, he was named Principal of W.E. Harris School in Hastings, where he remained until joining the staff of the St. Johns County School District as Supervisor of Elementary Schools in 1966.

Dr. Mason received numerous honors throughout his life including an into the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame for baseball in 1988. Dr. Mason also received the St. Johns County School District’s Learning Legacy Lifetime Achievement Award, the City of St. Augustine’s de Aviles Award, the Edward Waters College Public Service Award, Alpha Phi Alpha Education Leadership Award, St. Johns Welfare Federation Volunteer of the Year Award, Phi Delta Kappa Service to the Community Award and the M. L. King Award for Educational Leadership, among others.

Preceding his death, Dr. Otis A. Mason was almost as busy in retirement as he was when he was St. Johns County Superintendent of Schools. Although he had been retired for more than 30 years, he didn’t stop. He continued to work with community and regional groups. Dr. Mason kept a special connection with education through the school named after him. He continued to impact the lives of the school’s students through his presence and involvement in special events and award ceremonies.

“Dr. Otis Mason was a man of irresistible humanity who helped guide educational achievements against all odds. For his pivotal role in education and his valiant devotion to educating future generations, he will always remain an exemplary role model for today’s graduates,” said a news release announcing his death. “All of his life, Dr. Mason put the needs of others above his own. His humility in doing so set an example to everyone of what public service truly means. His leadership laid the groundwork for the foundation of educational excellence.”

His personal motto was to “Do the best you can to help as many as you can.” In his spare time, Dr. Otis A. Mason enjoyed spending time with his family and going fishing. His favorite scripture was Psalm 23. As his loved ones prepare to say goodbye to him, they want to think of him fondly as “he’s gone fishing.”

Dr. Otis Mason is survived by his loving wife of 73 years, Myrtis; daughters Pamela and Deidre; and grandson Jamil. He is preceded in death by his mother, Mildred Parsons Larkins, father, Robert L. Mason, stepfather, Frank Larkins, and brothers Robert and Reginald Mason, plus numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

To continue Dr. Mason’s legacy of service, the family has established the Dr. Otis A. Mason and Myrtis H. Mason Scholarship Fund at Florida A&M University for students from St. Johns County majoring in education. For more information, visit here.

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