Last month, Hillsborough County School Board Chairwoman Tamara Shamburger said a resident alerted district leaders to the possibility of the graves, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The resident, Ray Reed, said he discovered the records while researching area cemeteries, WFTS reported.
“I was hoping they’d take it seriously and look into it. I had no idea they’d react so quickly and I have to say, I am thrilled,” Reed told the television station.
School district officials believe only 145 coffins were found because as many as 77 of the people buried were infants or children and that their coffins would be difficult to find through ground scanning, WTSP reported.
Ridgewood Cemetery was built in 1942 and was owned by the City of Tampa, according to the Florida Genealogical Society. It served as a paupers' cemetery for African Americans, according to genealogical records. On its website, the Florida Genealogical Society listed the names of people believed to be buried at Ridgewood.
The City of Tampa sold a 40-acre parcel that included the cemetery to a private company in 1957, the Times reported. That company sold it to the school district in 1959, the newspaper reported. King High School opened in 1960, according to school records.
School district officials said they plan to tear down King High School's agricultural workshop, which may have been built over more graves, WTVT reported. District officials said they would deliver the findings to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner and Florida's state archaeologist, WFTS reported.