Velma K. Conyers.

An article, "City Pioneer Gets a Day of Her Own" appears in the March 24, 2009 issue of the Crestview News Bulletin.  The following Proclamation also appears in the article.  Mrs. Conyers, a Crestview resident for 86 years, turned 96 on March 14, 2009.

Whereas, Saturday, March 21st, 2009, has been designated as Velma K. Conyers Day; and
Whereas, Velma K. Conyers has been a resident of the City of Crestview, Okaloosa County, for 86 years; and
Whereas, Velma K. Conyers has served as Worthy Matron of Crestview Chapter No. 7A
        (later named Velma K. Conyers’ Chapter No. 7 in her honor), Order of the Eastern Star,
        Prince Hall Affiliated, Bethlehem Grand Chapter, for 47 years; and
Whereas Velma K. Conyers will celebrate her 96th birthday on March 14th, 2009, and be counted among a very
        special group of our society called pioneers; and
Now, Therefore, I, Mayor David Cadle, by virtue of the authority vested in me as the Mayor of the City of Crestview,
        Florida, do hereby proclaim the day of March 21st, 2009, as Velma K. Conyers Day.
David Cadle, Mayor, Crestview, FL.

Chester Pruitt.

Officer Chester Pruitt (1917 - 1968) was the 1st African American police officer in Ft. Walton Beach.  He joined police force in 1948 and served throughout the 1950-60s.  A Great Floridian Plaque in his honor has been erected at the Chester Pruitt Neighborhood Center. 15 Carson Dr. in Ft. Walton Beach.

Father Ian Bordenave.

      “Father Ian Bordenave, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Orleans, preaches at the 27th annual Mass commemorating Black History Month Feb. 3 in Fort Walton Beach.  Father Bordenave grew up in Okaloosa County and served in the military before becoming a Dominican priest.  The Mass, sponsored by the Catholic African-American Cultural Awareness Group of Okaloosa County, calls attention each year to the importance of the contributions of African-American Catholics to the church and to society.”
     “His  birth certificate from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., listed him and his parents as Negro. Dominican Father Ian G. Bordenave grew up thinking of himself more as Creole — French and Spanish — than as Negro. To escape discrimination, his family, when they moved to Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida in 1967, played down their ethnicity. Indicative of the pain and turmoil of the times, others with similar backgrounds did the same thing 40 and more years ago: pass for white, or as the French would say, “passe-blanc.” 

Read the entire article, “ Mass Celebrates Solidarity, Identity and Diversity” in the web publication of the Florida Catholic.  The article is written by  Peggy Dekeyser of the Florida Catholic Pensacola-Tallahassee Bureau Editor. The publication date is  February 15, 2008.  You can read the entire article at the following web address:

Mrs. Pearl M. Finley Henry.

 "TRIBUTE TO A GRANDMOTHER" by  Sue Presley Monroe Finley.  On the occasion of the Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church,
January 28,  2001 Anniversary.
 Part of the story also appears in The Heritage of Okaloosa County, Florida, Volume II.

Pearl M. FInely Henry        
     "First of all, she had that many names because those are the families she had to serve in her lifetime. She was a midwife, and the only one for a while in the Ray’s Still and Hundred and Cobb County area. She delivered at least ninety-percent of the babies throughout the vicinity, from the Yellow River to the Alabama/Florida line.
     She was an only child and had only one child, herself, a girl named Pearl M. Finley Henry. There were times she would leave home to deliver a baby and not return until weeks later. When she did return home, sometimes her pay would be a live pig or chicken, a ham, eggs, or a piece of material if she was blessed.
    She always wore a white sheer apron. It had a corner tied in a knot where she kept a few dollars or coins. All the children in the community would be happy to see her coming – to hear about her journey. She had told us she had a secret place where she kept the babies to take to different families. She never mentioned if the baby were black or white. To her, there was no such thing. Neil Cobb can tell you how she saved Nellie Star’s leg."

Mrs. Gladys Milton.

"Why Not Me?:  The Story of Gladys Milton, Midwife"
     This is the personal story of a courageous and compassionate Florida midwife and an account of her fight to provide women with affordable health care. It's a modern day tale of David versus Goliath, where "David" was one of the last grand ("granny") lay midwives still delivering babies in the U.S.
Publisher: Book Publishing Company (TN);  ISBN: 0913990973;   EAN: 9780913990971; No. of Pages: 128

The following is adapted from an article by  Heather Civil, Northwest Florida Daily News.
   Mrs Gladys Milton
     "Born ca 1924, Gladys Milton was a practicing midwife all her life.  Starting in 1959, she had delivered almost 3,000 babies in Walton County and surrounding areas.  In 1994 she earned a place in the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame. Many people called her ‘granny.’ And several women have used her Flowersview clinic to give birth to more than one of their children. She was able to build the Flowersview location in 1976. She even delivered her own grandson for her daughter, Maria.
     When Gladys died in 1999 her daughter, Maria took over the clinic.  Before coming to Flowersview Maria almost became a doctor in Chicago, but she decided to leave school and get a midwifery license in 1984 instead.  She believes as her mother did, that women can have babies naturally more often than not.But she recognizes this isn't easy.  The center works with a local doctor and hospital in case there is an emergency during a birth."

Mrs. Caroline Baker Allen.

     A biography and photo of Mrs. Allen appears in The Heritage of Okaloosa County, Florida. Volume II.  Examples of her  community service and contributions populate local papers over a span of many years.  A Biography also appears on line in the Educational Services section of the Baker Block Museum's  "A History of Florida, the Panhandle and Okaloosa County" webpage.   An excerpt of this page follows:

mrs allen      Caroline Baker was born in Texas. She graduated from Huston-Tillotson College in 1946. She married that year and moved to Florida with her husband, Samuel A. Allen where they began their teaching careers. When they arrived at the Crestview Depot they asked for directions to Baker, Florida.
      The agent said, “Baker! Nobody goes to Baker!” But he arranged for them to ride to Baker with the mailman that morning. They were able to find a house to rent for six dollars a month. They found someone to wire the house for electricity but there was no indoor plumbing. They got their water from a pump across the street.
      Caroline and her husband taught at Drew School in Baker from August 1949 until May, 1954. That is when Carver Hill School was built in Crestview and they were transferred to teach there. When the public schools were integrated, Caroline was transferred to teach at Crestview High and her husband to Richbourg Junior High School. They remained there until they retired; Caroline retired in 1979.
       Mrs. Allen was an educator in county schools for 30 years. She dedicated her life to the preservation of local history. . . It was a terrible shock to the community when she was killed in an automobile accident in 2005.  She and other family members were on their way home from a high school reunion. She was eighty years old at the time. Hers was a life well lived and serves as an example to all that even in death, she leaves optimism that we can better our lives and our world."

In Memoriam - Caroline Allen

     As a teacher, activist, creative writing instructor, museum curator and 2001 inductee in the Okaloosa County Women’s Hall of Fame, Caroline Allen is remembered for her efforts to keep Crestview’s African-American community
in the spotlight for more than 50 years. Mrs. Allen, who died in a car accident in August 2005, was born in Belton, Texas in 1925 and moved with her family to North Okaloosa County in 1949. She began her teaching career at Drew High School and was transferred in 1954 to Carver Hill School, where she taught English and business classes.
      From 1968 to 1979, she was the head of the Business Department at Crestview High School. After retiring from the Okaloosa County School Board, she began her career as a civic leader. Mrs. Allen served in an official capacity with the Crestview Chamber of Commerce, the Arts Council, the NAACP, the Eglin Air Force Base African- American Committee, and the Okaloosa County Library Focus Group. In the 1970s Mrs. Allen worked to convince the school district that what had been the Carver Hill School’s lunchroom should be converted into the Carver Hill Museum.
     She gathered school memorabilia and wrote grant applications for state and federal assistance. Later, she envisioned building a larger museum and shepherded its construction from fund raising to completion. Throughout the remainder
of her retirement, Mrs. Allen contributed to her community by advising small businesses, writing letters and providing advice to citizens. She was a leading organizer of Crestview’s annual May Day celebration.

         Adapted from:  Florida Preservation News. Florida Department of State. Division of Historical Resources.  Spring 2006. Vol 8, Issue 1. (Google this site)

Mr. Samuel H. Hayes.  
     Born June 15, 1920 in Blackman, FL, to Rosie and Al Hayes, he had eight sisters and three brothers. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1941 and fought not only in North Africa and Italy in WW II, He also served in Korea and Vietnam.  Upon his retirement after thirty-one years he was authorized to wear the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Purple Heart and various unit citations.  During his military career he also served as personal chef to President and Mrs. Dwight Eisenhower.  In 1974, he was elected to the Crestview City Council and served more than 25 years - and as Vice President and President of the City Council. (Search local newspapers for many articles on his community service and involvement)  His biography appears on Baker Block Museum's Florida History (Baker Block Museum Educational Services) at another location on this website.

 African Americans in Florida

     This book, by Maxine Deloris Jones, Kevin M. McCarthy,  profiles more than 50 African Americans during four centuries of Florida history in brief essays--Traces the role African Americans played in the discovery, exploration.  (Google the title)

Baker Block Museum Educational Services.   Baker, FL         (850) 537-571