General White remembers visiting Richmond Park before it had street lights, when his mother used to make guava jelly from trees now long gone. He remembers the trips to Harry’s Sweet Shoppe and hanging out at a makeshift shooting range in the woods near his uncle’s house.
Though White lived in Overtown, he spent most of his free time in Richmond Height with his uncle, Earnest White Sr., one of the community’s pioneers.
He remembers vividly the birth of the south Miami-Dade community, where his uncle and others pushed for its development. The dry pinelands gave way to churches, parks and schools, and later to a post office, grocery stores and shopping centers
General White recently represented his uncle at the dedication of the Richmond Heights Pioneer Monument, a memorial for the community’s 26 founders. It was installed at Lincoln Boulevard and Madison Street on May 26, Memorial Day.
“This is the area I grew up with,” General White said. “I tell my grandkids about the history of this place so they can be appreciative of it, and so they know what that monument means.”
The monument project was the brainchild of the community’s Neighborhood Crime Watch organization and took more than a decade to finish, said George Baldwin, who leads Richmond Heights crime watch. It was designed by Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, a Miami-based artist, and cost between $160,000 to $180,000 to complete.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss conducted a nationwide search for relatives of the 26 pioneer residents and invited them to the dedication. Eleven were located and all attended. Most of the pioneers themselves, including Earnest White, have passed on.
“This monument was a great source of pride for the community even before it was dedicated,” Moss said.
The monument also honors Frank Crawford Martin, a Pan Am pilot, who designed and developed Richmond Heights.
After World War II, Martin, who was white, worked to create a community with quality, affordable housing so that returning black veterans would have a decent place to live. Segregation and racial discrimination limited housing opportunities for black vets.
“This is the first and only community that we know of developed in America for black veterans,” Baldwin said. “Every succeeding generation should have it better than the one before. Good housing is part of that.”