This scholarship honors the legacy of Dr. Johnnie Ruth Clarke, an educator and humanitarian who spent her life improving the lives of others. Born in St. Petersburg in 1919, she credits her parents who worked as head bellman and head housekeeper at the Soreno Hotel in downtown St. Petersburg, and her teachers for encouraging her to succeed academically.
Clarke, who earned her bachelor's degree in social science from Florida A&M University and a master's degree from Fisk University, played an important role in the local academic, cultural and medical communities as well as our state history. In 1966, she became the first African-American to receive a doctorate from the University of Florida's College of Education, and the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at any Florida public university. She taught in Pinellas County public schools, Bethune-Cookman College and Florida A&M University. She served as Dean of Gibbs Junior College serving African-American students in the 1950s. When Gibbs became part of St. Petersburg Junior College in the '60s, she became Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs. She died in 1978 at age 58.