Cyril Blythe Andrews (1901-1977)
Prepared by the Historical Monument Trail Selection Committee, Friends of the Riverwalk
Cyril Blythe Andrews was born to William Wallace and Geneva (Smith) Andrews on July 6, 1901 in Apalachicola, FL. He had one sibling, a brother, William Wallace Andrews, Jr. (who later became a medical doctor). He attended elementary school at the old Baptist Academy and Stanton in Jacksonville, FL. He graduated from Florida A.M. High in Tallahassee. He graduated from Atlanta University with a bachelor of arts degree. While in college, he played on the varsity football and baseball teams and was the editor-in-chief of “The Scroll”, the college magazine. He was also president of the chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
After graduating from college, Mr. Andrews entered the University of Chicago Law School, and during his spare time was a journalism intern for the two largest Black newspapers, the Chicago Bee and the Chicago Defender. Due to his father becoming critically ill, he withdrew from school and returned to Jacksonville to become editor of the original Florida Sentinel newspaper, that was founded by his father.
On April 20, 1929, Mr. Andrews married Johna Belle Thompson. To this union was born 2 sons, C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. and W.W. Andrews, III.
After the death of his father, Mr. Andrews went into the insurance business and soon became secretary and treasurer of the Central Life Insurance Company, of which his father was one of the founders.
In 1936, Mr. Andrews and his family moved to Tampa to become an executive with Central Life Insurance company.
In 1939, he sold his stock in the Central Life for a substantial sum to devote full time to real estate and accepted the leadership in a small , 300 member fraternal organization known as the Lily White Pallbearers Union. The Lily White Pallbearers Union was mainly formed as a burial society, because Blacks could not get insurance.
Through his leadership, the organization’s name was changed to the Grand Assembly of Lily White Security Benefit Association, Inc. The organization grew to 650 units with 20,000 members in Florida and Georgia. Education funds were established to aid young preachers to receive theological training and high school graduates attend college. Due to his business acumen, the organization had assets of over $1 million. The organization built 3 temples; the 33-bed Lily White Hospital on 29th Street in Tampa; Lily White Rest Haven, a 20-bed full service nursing home; an ambulance service and owned numerous properties throughout Florida. Over 100 men and women were employed by the organization as clerks, nurses, cooks, nurse’s aides and janitors. The organization made multiple cash donations to Black churches throughout the state. It was well known for its massive assemblies and parades. He remained the Grand President of the organization from 1939 until his death in 1977.
In 1945, Mr. Andrews resurrected the Florida Sentinel newspaper in Tampa. The newspaper was housed on the infamous Central Avenue. In 1959, Mr. Andrews bought out the Tampa Bulletin, combining the two to become the Florida Sentinel Bulletin. Instead of publishing one time a week, the paper was circulated twice a week. In 1962, due to Urban Renewal, the Sentinel office was moved to East Tampa. The Sentinel is one of a few Black newspapers that owned its printing press and graphic equipment. The paper was handed down to Mr. Andrews’ son, and circulates throughout the U.S. under the helm of his grandchildren, who are 4th generation. The company over the years has provided employment to hundreds of people.
In 1968, Mayor Nick Nuccio donated 23 acres of land to Mr. Andrews as Grand President of the Lily SBA and Mr. Perry Harvey, leader of the ILA 1402 Union to build affordable housing. Tampa Park Apartments, a 400 unit apartment complex replaced ‘The Scrubs’ in Ybor City, 5 minutes from downtown Tampa.
Though Mr. Andrews worked tirelessly to build both the Lily White Security Benefit Association and the Florida Sentinel Bulletin, he nevertheless found time during the forties, fifties and sixties to dedicate himself to the cause of humanity and Black People. Affectionately called “Paperman” and ‘Brother Grand President’, a Bible scholar, he was a personal friend to many pastors. An avid sports lover, he owned a Negro League Baseball team. He was the organizer of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity in Florida and the NAACP, both of which he maintained membership until his death.
For his dedication and public service he received over 100 plaques and awards and was proudly cited by Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, Florida Memorial College, St. Augustine, where he was a member of the Board of Trustees and Democratic Voters League. He was the founder of the Frontiers of America, Tampa Chapter; and charter member of the Community Federal Savings and Loan, Tampa’s first Black-owned Bank established in 1967.
A mason and Elk, he was the first Black appointed to the Hillsborough County Civil Service Board, (1966-77) serving as vice chairman and later chairman. He was named a member of the Florida State Advisory Committee and Civil Rights by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 1962. He was the chairman of the Negro Advisory Committee, (1954-1958), member of Mayor’s Bi-Racial Committee, (1959-1972); member of Mayor’s Committee on Human Relations, 1964-1972; Deacon of Beulah Baptist Church, Knights of Pythias, Elks and Odd Fellows.