This story was updated with corrected information. The original story misidentified Deliford as a coach at Leisure City Middle Elementary. Deliford’s son, Lemmie Jr., is the coach.
South Florida principal Lemmie Deliford Sr. took a hit when he ran against incumbent G. Holmes Braddock for a seat on the Dade County School Board in a 1994 election.
Decades earlier, Deliford, who died Sept. 10 at 83, was one of three administrators involved in a school spanking case at Charles Drew Middle School in 1970. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1976, the court ruled in favor of the school administrators, including Deliford, who was the assistant principal, backing the countywide policy that permitted corporal punishment at the time. Deliford, who earned his master’s of education at the University of Miami and a doctorate at Columbia Pacific University, was initially backed by Braddock, too. Braddock was on the school board from 1962 to 2000.
But by the election in 1994, Braddock had changed his stance on corporal punishment. Not Deliford, who earned his bachelor’s of science degree at Florida A&M College after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force in 1955.
“I still have a strong feeling that corporal punishment is an essential tool if used adequately,” Deliford told the Miami Herald in 1994, after retiring as principal of Richmond Heights Middle School.
At Richmond, he successfully pushed to create a world culture center magnet program to boost the school’s computer, math and technical education offerings. He had spent 35 years in the public school system before retiring in 1992. Deliford had also led Campbell Drive Junior High and West Homestead Elementary.
“He was very supportive and he encouraged, a lot, the discipline,” said Milagros Rodríguez, 76, a retired office administrator who worked with Deliford at Campbell Drive. “There were kids who were spanked once and you would never see them at the office again. He had a battle with that but he was very fair and his relationship with parents was very good.”
The Herald editorial board commended Deliford as a “dedicated educator,” and for his community involvement. But the board recommended the incumbent.
Nonplussed, Deliford, born Oct. 12, 1931, in Cuthberth, Ga., continued to devote time to teaching children.
“The future of our young men and women was always at the core of every endeavor that he undertook,” his family said at his funeral service at St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Miami on Sept. 18.
The future of our young men and women was always at the core of every endeavor that he undertook.
The family of Lemmie Deliford at his funeral
“He cared about each child and he raised his son, Lemmie Jr., as a carbon copy of him,” Rodríguez said. After leaving Campbell Drive she spent more than 20 years at Leisure City Elementary Middle School where she worked alongside Deliford’s son, who had become the school’s physical education coach.
Deliford Jr. began the Special Olympics team at Leisure City in 1993, post-Hurricane Andrew. In 2001, he coached the Homestead kids to a state soccer championship at the Summer Special Olympic Games in Orlando.
“He lifted the self-esteem of those kids who were labeled ‘special ed’ but they have many talents,” Rodríguez said.
Deliford Sr. apparently had many talents, too. Longtime friend Baljean Smith, of Miami Gardens, was a couple years younger than Deliford, but both attended Dorsey Junior/Senior High in Miami at the same time and were classmates at FAMU in the 1950s.
“He was a hell of a good cook,” Smith, 81, said, chuckling. “He kept us nice and healthy when we were at FAMU.”
The discipline Deliford demanded from students was ingrained during his formative years. “No-nonsense, that’s accurate,” Smith said. “During that time, we were all veterans and all no-nonsense. We were men before our time.”
Deliford is survived by his wife of 53 years, Carol, their children Antonio Johnson Sr. and Lemmie Jr., and grandson Antonio Jr.