Families who have a legacy network, collaborate and support each other to impact lives. They lead with yesterday, today, and tomorrow in mind so that they cultivate what matters. They find the will to overcome the negative chatter holding them back from their purpose and pave the way to become the first in their fields. These families deserve to be celebrated year-round for breaking barriers, standing against injustices, and leading from the frontlines.
VBD Magazine is honored to shine the spotlight on one such family, the Picketts – Edgar T. Pickett, Jr., Edgar T. Pickett III, Deloris Pickett Patterson, and the late Lena Smith Pickett – whose accomplishments and impact will inspire generations to come. Their legacy is a powerful expression of advocacy, community life, and family values.
GOING THE DISTANCE
This year, 2022, Edgar T. Pickett, Jr. and the late Lena Pickett of Lakeland, Florida would have celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary. The couple tied the knot on January 25, 1950, in a ceremony officiated by the late Rev. Peter Chappelle at the parsonage of Bethel A.M.E. Church. Their union produced two children, Deloris Pickett Patterson and Edgar T. Pickett III. The Picketts have been blessed with 7 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren, and 5 great-great grandchildren.
Edgar Pickett, Jr. had a long and distinguished career in law enforcement. He was sworn in among the first four Black police officers working for the police department in the City of Lakeland, Florida. “In 1954, after leaving work at Montgomery Ward & Company, I was going home when I saw a policeman who was overseeing an area and mistreating our people. From watching this incident, it inspired me to become a police officer. My mom did not want me to become a police officer, but I wanted her to know that I could make a difference, because I wanted to show that you can be in authority and still not mistreat people.”
Still, Pickett, Jr. had to overcome many struggles during segregation to achieve his dream.
“Thankfully, my mother worked for the Mayor and told him of my interest. After that, my father went to the City Commissioner’s meeting to lobby for Black policemen. It was only after the commissioner fired the then police chief that I was hired as a police officer.”
In 1964, Pickett, Jr. was promoted to head of crime scene investigations, where he soon implemented the department’s first fingerprint filing system in Polk County and worked for all police departments in Polk County in their fingerprinting department. The Henry system which was developed in Great Britain allowed for greater cross-referencing. The Pickett-Moulden Crime Laboratory in Lakeland was named after Edgar Pickett, Jr. and his long-time partner and friend, Herman Moulden. In 1983, after 29 ½ years of work, Pickett, Jr. retired from his position of Sergeant with the Lakeland Police Department. However, he continued to volunteer as a consultant for different law enforcement agencies in the State of Florida.
The late Lena Pickett retired May 28, 2004, as a preschool teacher after nearly 46 years. She was the owner and director of Pickett’s Child Development Center Inc., a childcare facility in Lakeland. Mother Pickett was also the historian of the Washington Park/Rochelle Alumni Association.
In 2020, Mother Pickett was awarded the key to the city of Lakeland by Mayor Bill Mutz for her many years of community service. While she was not able to attend the ceremony, her daughter, Deloris Pickett Patterson attended and delivered the key to her mother.
For 31 years, Deloris Patterson worked for the Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida. She worked one year at Memorial Middle School and 30 years at Dr. Phillips High School. Deloris was in the first group to work at Dr. Phillips High School while it was still under construction. Dr. Phillips opened officially in August 1987. She was hired to work in the copy room and worked herself up to Administrative Secretary to the Principal. In 2017, a grand ceremony was held in her honor when she retired. “Unfortunately, my mom’s health would not permit her to attend the ceremony.” Deloris was thankful that her father, brother, and sons could share in this special occasion given by the administration, faculty, and staff of Dr. Phillips High School.
Deloris was named Orange County Public Schools 2014 Support Person of the Year at a ceremony held at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando. During her employment at Dr. Phillips High School, Patterson had been named DPHS Support Person of the Year at least eight times. She was an OCPS finalist three times and a State of Florida finalist in 2014.
Pastor E. Telefair Pickett III is the founder of Word Alive Ministries, Inc., in Lakeland, “A place where Jesus is Lord, the Holy Ghost moves, and the Word is alive!” Pastor Pickett’s ministry gift has afforded him the opportunity to speak in many countries, including South Korea, Nigeria, Ghana, and Ukraine. He has done mission and ministry work in Jamaica and The Virgin Islands.
Pastor Pickett was called into the ministry while he was operating as a supervisor at a branch of Publix Super Market. He started with three members and now Word Alive Ministries, a nondenominational church, has over 300 members. With a mission to help the Lakeland community, Word Alive Ministries has implemented many programs, including a men’s ministry, women’s ministry, outreach to Virgin Islands ministry, ministry in Jamaica, and a livestream on Facebook to reach many across the world.
GROWING IN GRACE
For many, leaving a legacy is associated with the end rather than the beginning of their lives. The Pickett Family learned this life lesson early and, with each step, they identified ways to master the fundamentals and create opportunities.
“Mom and dad were dedicated to their work in the church and community. My sister and I are proud of our parents’ achievements,” Pastor Pickett states. “Our parents have always been caring. I never had to worry about needing anything as a kid.”
“Growing up with one sibling and both parents was a blessing,” says Deloris. “I could not have asked for anything more. My parents were great providers and they nurtured us to be loving and giving. They taught us to love the Lord with all our hearts, to respect our elders, and love our family and friends.
“When we were growing up, we very seldom had to call a handyman. My dad did it all. He was the overseer and builder of our home. I thought we were wealthy until I grew up and found out that we were not. Our parents made us feel that way.
“There is so much we could say about growing up in the Pickett household and how we survived being PKs (Police Kids).”
It was not easy for the Pickett family to talk about the late Lena Pickett. As they reflected on her life and legacy, the past came to life with people, places, customs, and celebrations.
“No words can adequately describe that season in my life when my mother passed,” Pastor Pickett states. “I held on to my faith and I’m glad that I have family members, my church family, and friends to carry me when I couldn’t carry myself. Mom had been a blessing to many and even now, she continues to influence the lives of those of us who survived her.
“When mom’s health failed, it broke my heart,” Deloris discloses. “My mom was active and helped many people. She was active in church all her life—church secretary, youth director, and trustee, to name some of the positions she held.
“When mom passed, it was like losing my best friend. She was my confidant, mentor, sister, and someone I could look up to. Her love was unconditional. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about mom. I know she made her appointment with the Lord, but the hurt is still here.
“We continue to have a strong family bond and we keep in touch with each other as much as possible.”
“Going on the journey with mom during the last stages of her life changed my life and outlook on life,” says Deloris. “It helped me to know how important it is to love on my loved ones. I thank God for the years He gave us with our mom.”
The death of a loved one can be a stressful experience that affects your emotional and physical well-being. Nevertheless, the grieving process is unique to each person. Here are suggestions from the Picketts’ for managing grief:
· Breathe, keep your faith, and allow God to direct your path.
· Pray together as a family.
· Pace yourself and express your grief.
· Seek wise counsel. For example, talk with a therapist or grief counselor.
· Keep structure in your day.
· Plan for grief triggers, such as anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays.
· Learn about grief.