Sharon Cobb: Lifelong St. John Resident
A lifelong resident of St. John, Sharon Smith Cobb is well-known in her community. Neighbors know her as a proud educator who has always understood the importance of dedication and hard work. Sharon remembers St. John as a largely rural farming community. Most residents are extended family members of hers.
To Sharon, there are few things more important than family. Her great-great-grandmother was born in 1864. She was an educated woman who could read and write. Sharon’s great-great-grandmother worked as a midwife. After delivering a white family’s baby, the family gifted her great-great-grandmother with a single cow. Allowed to mate her cow with their herd, she quickly raised a herd of her own.
This herd was passed down to her son and eventually to Sharon’s father. Her father maintained the cattle as a source of food for their family. Sharon recalls helping out with the cows when her brother and cousins in the Air Force were drafted for the Vietnam War and she was enrolled at FAMU.
Pursuing Higher Education
Sharon remembers the grueling work in the tobacco fields she endured as a child. She says there was a moment when she decided she wanted more from her life than doing labor. Pushed by her parents to pursue higher education, Sharon enrolled in FAMU.
Sharon went on to obtain her bachelor’s degree in business education and her master’s degree in guidance and counseling from FAMU. Sharon worked in administration for many years. She finally settled on becoming a principal and director for an adult vocational education program. The importance of education is still deeply ingrained in Sharon, who in 2014 financed an endowment at FAMU. Today she continues to donate to the university and is an active member of FAMU’s booster.
Today, Sharon still recognizes the importance of a rural community. Her father always discussed with his children his hope of owning land, something that Sharon strives to achieve. She hopes to soon purchase the undeveloped land neighboring her home in an effort to preserve the rural composition of her community.
Realities Of The Past
Though she has fond memories of growing up in Gadsden County, Sharon also recalls the difficulties of living in the Jim Crow South during segregation. Sharon can recall how once while traveling her family was barred from using the facilities in gas stations during the journey. During another instance, they were forced to sleep outside in a cotton field in South Carolina when no hotels in the area would rent them a room.
Her father would often try to protect his children from the realities of segregation, telling them to drink water before leaving home to avoid having to use the segregated water fountains designated for African Americans. Sharon believes he did this to save his children from embarrassment and alienation, but says that she still realized she was unwelcome in some areas of town.
Religion has always been important to Sharon, who is a very involved lifelong member of the St. John AME church. Today she is a member of the Healthy Heart Foundation and seeks to assist congregation members with becoming more active in order to reduce the risk of heart disease. Sharon took on this role when she noticed members suffering from inactivity and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. She aims to incorporate activities that also boost mental health since the isolation of quarantine was tough on many members of the community.
Sharon is incredibly devoted to the health and wellness of her community. A lifelong member of St. John, Sharon believes that the strong sense of love and community has shaped her into the person she is today.