‘An extraordinary man’: Trailblazer Otis Mason leaves behind a legacy of education, community service in St. Augustine

People in St. Augustine and St. Johns County will say goodbye to a trailblazer in their community this weekend.

Dr. Otis A. Mason is remembered as an educator who served his country and Northeast Florida. He died earlier this month at the age of 95.

He was the first African American elected school superintendent in the state of Florida and a man that helped so many.

It was within the quiet historic Lincolnville community that a young man and his two brothers were born.

As a child, Mason grew up in a segregated South.

Relentlessly, he soared through the ranks of the St. Johns County School District as a teacher, a principal– then in 1984, he became superintendent of schools.

His eldest daughter Pamela Mason shared stories of her father’s ambition as she stood near the house where he was born.

“Under his high school yearbook picture as a senior in 1948, I believe his goal was to be school superintendent and that was unheard of, those were heavy days of segregation so for him to attain that he needed the help of the community to do that,” Pamela Mason said.

Dr. Mason was also an amazing father and husband.

“For us personally as daughters, he was just the greatest dad alive. And I’m sure many think of their father like that. He was kind, he was patient up until the day he went home to be with the Lord, it was please and thank you,” Pamela Mason said.

Dr. Mason poured into his community in many ways including the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center which was founded by he and his wife.

The museum was once the only school in town for Black children to get an education. Dr. Mason also attended the school as a child and it was the first school where he taught students.

“I think just caring about his community and the people,” Regina Gayle Phillips, Executive Director of the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center said when asked about his legacy. “I think he had just a deep sense of community that a lot of people didn’t always get because he was, he was a quiet, kind of spirit but forceful and I think that he always wanted something better from all the stories that he told. The fact that he helped to found this museum, the fact that he really was instrumental in the founding of the Fort Mose historical society as well.”

He served in the US Army for two years during the Korean War.

When he returned home, he worked with others to get the county school district fully integrated.

Some of the same children that he mentored and taught returned to the county to teach.

His memory remains in many ways including a school in his name: Otis A Mason Elementary School.

Now he will be laid to rest at the same church where he is a lifelong member, St. Paul AME Church in St. Augustine.

“An extraordinary man, well accomplished. I’m just honored to be able to do his eulogy because he was an amazing person. His range of skills and talents goes unmatched. I can’t say enough about Doctor Otis Mason who has done a phenomenal job in making contributions to this community,” said Rev. Dr. Alesia Ford-Burse.

As the community says goodbye to a man who gave so much of himself, his memory continues on through the lives of others and education.

The Celebration of Life Service takes place on Saturday, January 27. Viewing by the public is from 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. The Celebration of Life Service begins at 11:00 a.m. at Anastasia Baptist Church in St. Augustine.

The service will broadcast livestream and can be viewed online at Stjohnsfamilyfuneralhome.com.

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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