Our School's Namesake
John M. Sexton
John M. Sexton, served as director of accreditation and federal fund deployment for county schools; was principal of Northeast High School from 1954 until 1965; principal of South Side Junior High 1958-1954 and St. Petersburg High School head football coach 1943, and 1945-1947.
Sexton’s broad understanding of secondary education and guidance and his ability to innovate brought him national recognition.
He was named president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals in 1964, an organization attracting 10,000 delegates to its national conventions.
Twice he was invited to Washington to attend presidential conferences, in 1960 by President Eisenhower and in 1964 by President Johnson to witness the signing of a three-year extension of the National Defense Education Act.
During the two years prior to his death he was a member of study teams visiting Mexico, Central and South America evaluating American schools which have applied for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Sexton was one of 23 educators on a national committee to develop through large-scale use of computers, comprehensive information about a student’s school career to aid in a cooperative plan for guidance and admission to college.
His ready wit and jovial personality made him much in demand as a speaker and master of ceremonies. He had been called upon to introduce such personalities as Henry Cabot Lodge, James B. Conan, former president of Harvard and Ambassador to Germany; Senator William Fulbright and Adam Clayton Powell.
Born in Albia, Iowa, Sexton compiled an outstanding record in athletics before turning to school administration. He was named All-America guard for Catholic schools in 1933 while playing football at DePaul University in Chicago, and played professional football a year with the Chicago Cardinals.
After coaching championship teams in Iowa in football, basketball and track, he came to St. Petersburg in 1943 to coach the St. Petersburg Green Devils.
He received his Master’s degree in education from Drake University and turned to administration, developing outstanding academic programs at South Side and Northeast, and winning a host of friends among parents, teachers and students.
He was a former president of the Florida High School Principal’s Association, past president of the St. Petersburg Rotary Club, member of the Quarterback Club and listed in Who’s Who in America.
John M. Sexton died July 4, 1967 after a brief illness. He was 58 years old. At the time of his death, he was married to Betty Jane Scott Sexton, had a son John Dennis Sexton and a daughter Suzanne Sexton, as well as a grandson John Michael Sexton.