By Marsha Phelts – News of the death of centenarian Sollie Mitchell shocked citizens of Jacksonville last week as they learned of the departure of one of its most beloved citizens. His next birthday would have made him 104 years old, marking decades that the community trustee watched over and cared for the community through everything from his work as a Pullman Car Porter and Mason to veteran and fraternity brother of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Sollie Mitchell was born in Ocilla, Georgia, June 20, 1918, and orphaned three times by the time he came to Jacksonville in 1931. From his austere beginning on a farm in Irwin County, Georgia, the fact he would graduate an honor student and be president of his class from LaVilla Grammar School, Stanton High School and Florida Normal Institute was beyond his imagination.
His quest for an education was powerful, Sollie never gave up from the time he graduated from the LaVilla Grammar School and Stanton High School and was class president and honor roll student from both schools.
Sollie’s determination, skills and ingenuity created a scholarship for himself on the spot at Florida Normal Institute where he was drafted for the army but returned to finish his education.
Mitchell has dedicated his life to helping others. He generously contributes scholarships to his Alma Mater, Florida Memorial University as well Edward Waters University, Bethune Cookman University and numerous other charitable causes. He has also been a long-time contributor for the health, education and welfare of children in the village of Ero in Nigeria, West Africa.
At the time of his passing he was the oldest member of The United Supreme Council Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Prince Hall Affiliation, Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America, Inc. Through the 103 years and 11-month course of his life, Sollie Mitchell, has been the recipient of countless awards and honors that triples his age from everyone from President Barack Obama to local dignitaries. Until a month before his death, Sollie Mitchell remained active in the memberships that he held and was a much sought-after speaker.
He frequently would stop by the Free Press office to personally pay for his subscription or just “say hi to see his girls,” with a sighting just a month ago. He will be remembered as a gentle, giving soul who did all he could to make the world around him a better place. We could all learn a page of resilience and dedication from his storied life.
Sollie Mitchell died at home on the morning of May 23, 2022, 28 days shy of his 104th Birthday. The wake and celebration of life for Brother Sollie Mitchell was held at Historic Mt. Zion AME Church, Rev. Victor Cole, pastor. Interment for Sollie Mitchell is besides his loving wife, Mary Alva Barnett Mitchell at Restlawn Memorial Park Cemetery.