Coach Jake Gaither is one of Florida A&M’s (FAMU) most notable heroes in its 135-year history. Alonzo “Jake” Gaither, also referred to as “The Great”, is a centerpiece of sports history in Tallahassee. His career began in 1945 at FAMU, then called FAMC, where he “served as head football coach until his retirement in 1969”
Although his remarkable football coaching career was the highlight of Gaither’s life, he also contributed to the other sports in the city. Today, several buildings bear the Tennessee native’s name, including FAMU’s Jake Gaither Gym and a public golf course.
The golf course spread through the city as the only golf course that African Americans were allowed to play on. Since its grand opening. It was a beacon of hope for people who didn’t feel invited to the sport due to the social and political climate.
The course opened in 1956 and 66 years later was added to the National Register of Historic Places. This list includes many high-profile historic buildings such as the house in which Dr. Martin Luther King was born.
The course is at the center of many old stories including that of a gentleman who asked to remain anonymous.
“My friends and I used to sneak [the course] to bring a golf club and take turns hitting it all the time,” the gentleman said.
This course proved to be a great place for many residents of the Gaither district and across the state and eventually earned its rightful place in history. Tiant Dwint, golf course supervisor, says “It was an elaborate task by a historian named Scott Edwards who played golf on the course when he was a boy and he helped the course get pushed into the register”. “The best thing about being on the register is that our history won’t be erased,” which is ultimately the biggest focus of the course today.
It is vital to Tallahassee’s historically rich black community that this golf course receives the recognition it deserves and sheds light on Jake Gaither’s legacy and impact on the sports world one building at a time and that was finally done.