BY THE DAYTONA TIMES STAFF
ORLANDO – Kenneth “Kenny” Kinsler, one of the first Black athletes to desegregate Seabreeze High School’s racially segregated athletic program, died Jan. 24 in Orlando after a long illness. He would have turned 62 on Feb. 3.
Kinsler was born on February 3, 1955 to Patsy Tiller and the late Kenneth L. Kinsler. He attended Rev. David Shaw’s kindergarten, Turie T. Small Elementary, Campbell Junior High (as middle schools were called then) and Mainland Junior High, all in Daytona Beach.
“Kenny was bowlegged with big thighs, which gave him a strong athletic foundation,” said Bobby Jackson, one of Kinsler’s best friends from childhood.
“Ironically, we used to talk about the cultural and community ‘foundation’ he had in Daytona, what he called ‘the Daytona flavor’ – honesty, respect, responsibility – the upbringing he got from being raised in our neighborhood. He was really connected to Daytona.”
Bused to beachside
Forced busing of Black students to Seabreeze came after the Volusia County School Board shut down all-Black Campbell Street High School. That was how the board, after almost two decades of opposition, finally obeyed the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education legal decision outlawing racial segregation in America’s public schools.
In 1970, Kinsler was among the first group of Black high school-age students living south of Orange Avenue who took the 30-minute school bus ride to what was then known as Seabreeze Senior High School.
He had honed his basketball skills on Robert “Buggy” Reed’s team while participating in the local neighborhood basketball league organized by Eldridge Van Geter, the visionary recreation director at what was then known as the Cypress Street Recreation Center.
After two years of trying, he made the Seabreeze’s 1973 varsity basketball team as a senior, where he played with another best friend, Earnest “Benny” Jones.
After graduating from Seabreeze in 1973, Kinsler moved to Houston, Texas where he found a job and lived with Jones. After returning to live in Daytona Beach for a short time, he moved to Orlando. He met Freda Garret there in 1983 and married her on August 10, 1990.
After marriage, Kenneth and Freda settled down in Orlando, and raised their two children Latrice and Zachary. There, Kinsler worked with Walgreens in their distribution section for more than 15 years, then at Bloomingdales’ as a customer service specialist.
“He lived as a long-time, longsuffering Cleveland Browns fan” after his retirement, according to Jackson, until his death.
Kinsler leaves behind his wife of 26 years, Freda Kinsler; his mother Patsy Tiller and daughter Latrice Kinsler of Daytona; son Zachary (Dominique) Kinsler of Winter Garden; grandchildren Anthony Shephard and Zorianna Harris; brothers Angelo (Yonda) Davis of Killeen, Texas; Aaron (Patricia) Bythwood of Oviedo; and Dennis Kinsler of Daytona; numerous nieces and nephews; and a host of extended family and friends. Kinsler was preceded in death by his stepfather Rufus C. Tiller and Earnest “Benny” Jones.
Viewing is set for Friday, Feb. 3 from 4 p.m. to p.m. at Mitchell’s Funeral Home, 501 Fairvilla Road, Orlando, 32808. Homegoing service is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb.4, at Agape Assembly Baptist Church 2425 N. Hiawassee Rd. Orlando.