First Black woman on Alachua County school board

Barbara Jean Cliffin Sharpe was a 5-foot-2-inch fireball with the ability to empathize with whomever she encountered, but better known for being the first Black woman since Reconstruction to sit on the school board for Alachua County Public Schools.

She sat on the board for 16 years and presided over Florida’s 67 counties as president for the Florida School Boards Association. 

Sharpe, 84, died surrounded by her family, on Feb. 8 at the E.T. York Haven Hospice in Gainesville after developing Lewy Body Dementia. 

As a school board member, Sharpe wanted to make sure that there was a level playing field for children, family and colleagues recalled. She wanted every child to know that they could be successful and live a life full of abundance.