In honor of Black History Month, let’s recognize the Austin family and their contributions to the Lake Wales community. James P. Austin Jr. and Jeresa Colvin Austin were regarded as strong pillars of the community. Both were also valued members of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
One of James’ greatest contributions to Lake Wales was the development of many homes in the Northwest Community. He also served as a city commissioner for 13 years, and then moved on to be Lake Wales’ first African-American mayor in 1989.
James’ wife, Jeresa Colvin Austin, was highly involved in the community. Jeresa was a schoolteacher for the Polk County School Board for nearly 35 years, and also a member of the Lake Wales Retirement Board. She was also a clerk for 60 years at the First Institutional Missionary Baptist Church of Lake Wales. She moved on to be the Superintendent of Sunday School. For all her achievements and involvement in the community, Jeresa was the first African-American to receive the Pioneer Citizen of the Year of Lake Wales award.