Editor's note: Greater Union Life Center in DeLand is sponsoring Black History Month 2021 banners honoring 16 individuals who have made a positive impact on the city of DeLand, and Volusia County. The banners have been installed along Woodland Boulevard in Downtown DeLand, and The Beacon is compiling profiles of the individuals, beginning with Mr. Bush. The honorees will also be recognized at a DeLand City Commission meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15, in the commission chambers at City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave. The public is welcome to attend.
Tom Bush, 76, was a fixture in DeLand’s thriving school baseball scene for more than 30 years.
Originally a teacher and coach at the pre-integration Southwestern school in DeLand, Bush led his team to back-to-back baseball championships.
During the federally mandated integration of the 1969-70 Volusia County school year, Bush led the way — and blurred the lines between Black and white — as one of the first Black coaches at the newly integrated DeLand High School.
Longtime educator Al Bouie, who also was one of the first Black coaches at DeLand, remembers the impact Bush had during the somewhat uneasy time of integration.
“I don't believe DeLand High School would have been as successful in integration as it turned out to be without Tom Bush,” Bouie said. “It was people like Tom that sort of radiated a kind of peace: We can get along. We're better. We're stronger together than apart.”
Bush’s presence helped ease the process on both sides, Bouie recalled.
“I really think they saw and had the first chance to really experience the kind of person, and the quality of person, that would be added to the mix. In other words, diversity became something to value,” Bouie told The Beacon.
Bouie remembers how students throughout the years would look up to Bush, would ask his advice, and copy his behavior.
“All those things get lost in history, but they are the things that really count when people interact with people,” Bouie said. “Those things are hard to measure. But I'm telling you, I was there, I saw it. And I was a part of it. And he was a tremendous contributor to the overall peace and tranquility of this integration process at DeLand High School.”
Bush retired in 1998 after 32 years.