SAFETY HARBOR — William “Bill” Blackshear had a long history of public service in Safety Harbor. The first African American man elected to the City Commission in 1964, he was also instrumental in bringing child care services to the Lincoln Highlands area of the city.
Blackshear and his wife, Betty, needed day care for their two youngest children but there were no services available for Black families in Safety Harbor. So he started the Lincoln Nursery Association and within a year, a day care center was opened.
Now a new mural will honor his legacy and service to Safety Harbor. The city recently released a Call to Artists seeking an individual or team to create and install a mural on an exterior wall of the Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center’s child care building.
According to Safety Harbor Recreation Superintendent Shannon Schafer, the location was specifically chosen to honor Blackshear’s work with children.
“Anyone who has made such significant accomplishments to this city deserves to be recognized,” Schafer said. “And, it is important for the children to learn about him as well. It is so fitting to put it on a child care center.”
Jackie and Harry Williams, Blackshear’s daughter and son-in-law, are thrilled that the city has chosen to honor him in this way.
“He has been such an influence in our community,” Harry Williams said. “He saw the need and he spearheaded a child care program for the African American children in Safety Harbor.”
Blackshear was a humble man who went out of his way to help anyone in need, according to Jackie. “He always just did what he felt needed to be done,” she said.
She just wishes her father was still alive to see the way that he is being honored.
City staff, as well as the Diversity Advisory Board and Public Art Committee, have worked with the Blackshear family since his death in 2021 to find suitable ways to honor his legacy. In addition to the mural, there will be two new historical markers added to the city’s program, which honors people, places and buildings of significance located throughout Safety Harbor. One of the Blackshear markers will be located at the Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center and the other at City Hall.
The mural project is called “William Blackshear — Celebrating a Lifetime of Achievements.” Up to $10,000 will be awarded to an artist or team to cover the cost of design, labor and materials required to complete the mural, which will depict Blackshear and illustrate some of his contributions to Safety Harbor history.
The city would like to see the mural completed by the end of May. A celebration Blackshear’s life is being planned for June 4, and Schafer would like the unveiling of the mural to be a part of that event.
Schafer said that the mural will join others throughout the city. It is part of a commitment to bring more artwork to outdoor areas.
“We are always looking for areas to expand public art,” she said.
Applications for the project are due Thursday, Feb. 24, and can be obtained through Schafer at email@example.com, or by calling 727-724-1562, ext. 1516.