Opa-locka historian, pioneer dies at 96

Opa-locka historian, pioneer dies at 96Irma Skiles is an icon in Opa-locka.

A wall inside the house she lived in, proudly displays her certifications and honors she rightly earned over the years.

“We are very proud of Mother Skiles and her contributions she made to the great City of Opa-locka,” said Mayor Myra Taylor.

Mother Skiles died July8 at the age of 96 inside the white, two-bedroom home she grew up in on Northwest 23rd Court, a road that’s named after her.

Always known for walking to where she needed to go, Mother Skiles’ tall, stately body gave her a commanding presence wherever she went.

According to Bernard “Hambone” Durham, her caregiver, everybody knew Mother Skiles only accepted rides to go to church or for special occasions.

“She was kind and nice to everyone she met,” said Durham.

Skiles’ family made history in Opa-locka by becoming the first black family to move into the then-segregated city. Skiles became Opa-locka’s first black librarian and first black columnist for an Opa-locka newspaper. Her father, Ernest Ingram, was the first black city employee as a maintenance worker.

As a working mother, Skiles helped open an elementary school for black students in Northern Dade County after she started homeschooling her daughter to prevent from walking to and from the Liberty City area every day. Her efforts gained the attention of her supervisor and the public school system where Dade County public schools later opened an elementary for black students.

In Opa-locka she was involved in local politics by getting people out to vote.

The Opa-locka City Commission expressed sympathy to the family of Mother Skiles and recognized her contributions in a resolution on July 13, 2013.

“Mother Skiles will always be remembered in our hearts as a women of courage, a women of integrity, and a woman pleasing in the sight of God,” the Opa-locka City Commission expressed in their resolution honoring Skiles.

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