Notable People

Kermit Weeks

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Kermit Weeks grew up in Miami, Florida. His childhood interest in mechanical design and construction evidenced itself early. While still a teenager, Kermit had already taken to the skies and learned to fly. At age 17, while still in high school, he began construction of his first home-built aircraft—an airplane he completed and flew four years later. In 1973, at age 20, Weeks began taking to the air in aerobatic flying competitions while pursuing an aeronautical engineering degree at Miami-Dade Junior College, the University of Florida, and Purdue University. By 1977, Kermit had built the “Weeks Special,” an aerobatic aircraft of his own design, and he qualified for the United States Aerobatics Team at age 24. In 1978, he was runner-up among 61 competitors worldwide, earning three Silver medals and one Bronze medal in the World Aerobatics Championships staged in Czechoslovakia. Over the span of a dozen years, he placed in the top three in the world five times and won a total of 20 medals in World Aerobatics Championship competition. He has twice won the United States National Aerobatics Championship and has won several Invitational Masters Championships in different worldwide competitions.

During the late 1970s, Kermit’s aviation interests expanded to include the acquisition, restoration, and preservation of antique aircraft. In 1985, he began operating the Weeks Air Museum in Miami, a non-profit facility that housed much of his private collection and other antique aircraft owned by the museum. As his personal collection expanded, Weeks planned for development of a larger, more comprehensive facility in which to showcase and share his aircraft collection. In the mid-‘80s he began acquiring a 300-acre site near Polk City, Florida, 20 miles southwest of Walt Disney World, for an aviation-themed attraction called Fantasy of Flight. In 1992, as development plans finalized for Fantasy of Flight, Hurricane Andrew struck the Miami area, virtually destroying the Weeks Air Museum facility (it was repaired and reopened in 1994) and seriously damaging most of the vintage aircraft within it. Some of Weeks’ collection, which was damaged by the hurricane underwent careful repair and restoration, and is now displayed at Fantasy of Flight.

Fantasy of Flight opened its doors in 1995, beginning another colorful chapter in Weeks’ career devoted to furthering aviation. The facility’s beautiful “Golden Age” hangars now showcase the world’s largest privately held vintage aircraft collection, representing romantic and thrilling eras from earliest flight to the beginnings of the jet age. What sets Fantasy of Flight apart from other collections is that Kermit doesn’t collect anything he doesn’t intend to fly. Most of the display aircraft are fully restored to airworthiness. As an aviation-themed attraction complete with immersive exhibits and delights for the whole family, Fantasy of Flight ushers its visitors through aviation’s storied past while providing guests ample moments of wonder and excitement. The goal is clear: according to Weeks, Fantasy of Flight must “Light that Spark Within!”

However, Weeks has crafted Fantasy of Flight to be much more than simply an airplane museum, and his reach extends far beyond the community of aviation enthusiasts. His experiences as an aviator and collector combine with his passions as a student of metaphysics to create a unique and powerful vision for Fantasy of Flight’s guests: to explore “inner” flight—their own potential and consciousness—as well “outer” flight. In an article recently published in Plane and Pilot, Weeks observes, “Everyone can relate to reaching for the sky and reaching for the stars, as well as soaring in our imagination and flying in our dreams!” Weeks encourages each guest to look up into a seemingly never-ending sky, and ask himself, “What might lie beyond my current perspective of reality… and what limitations are keeping me from climbing even higher?”(Courtesy of Fantasy of Flight Website)

 

Marvin Pipkin

Marvin Pipkin (Nov 18, 1889 – Jan 7, 1977) is best known as the inventor of the inside-frost process of bulbs for incandescent lamps, which was developed in 1925, as well as the improved process developed in 1947, which consisted of an application of silica to the inside of a bulb. This new process was called: “Q-coat.” He also held several patents on photoflash lamps.

Marvin Pipkin was born in the Christina area south of Lakeland, FL and was one who had a pronounced Dixie accent. He was the son of David M. and Catherine (Moore) Pipkin. His father was a farmer and grove owner and planted the first citrus trees in the Medulla and Christina areas.

Pipkin received his primary education in Lakeland and his secondary education at the Summerlin Institute in Bartow. After graduation from high school Pipkin joined a prospecting firm for a year and then worked, for a short time, at the International Agricultural Corp., later known as the International Mineral and Chemical Corp. of Barlow.

Pipkin attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute (API) and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from that institution in 1913. After working in fertilizer and phosphate laboratories in Bartow for a year he returned to API and, in 1915, earned a master’s degree.

On Nov 5, 1917 Pipkin enlisted in the Army in Jacksonville. Because the Germans had introduced poisonous gas into warfare there was a need for persons with a chemical background to work on gas masks. Pipkin entered the Gas Defense Department as a private and was posted to the laboratories at Nela Park in Cleveland.

One of the first discoveries that emerged from the Nela laboratory was due to Pipkin. He found that the activity of charcoal for phosgene (a highly poisonous liquid) could be significantly increased by the introduction of hydrated manganese dioxide into it. Subsequent findings and understanding led to accurate determinations of the effect of water on the absorption of gases by charcoal. Pipkin attained the rank of Master engineer, senior grade. After his service he remained at Nela to work in the Lamp Development Laboratory.

The glare from incandescent lamps was something many people wanted to reduce. A common technique used on early incandescent lamps consisted of an outside acid etch on the bulb. However, such a process led to remarkably reduced strength of the bulb. In 1925 Pipkin developed an etch on the inside of the bulb that did not weaken the glass (U.S. Patent No. 1,687,510). It was a process that was standard for about 30 years. Work performed in 1947 resulted in an improvement in the coating of the bulb. That improvement was achieved by means of an inside coating of silica on the bulb (U.S. Patent No. 2,545,896).

Marvin Pipkin retired from Nela Park in 1954 and resettled in his home town of Lakeland, FL. He had married Kathryn Patricia Enright (d 1957) on Jul 21, 1919 and they had three children. Pipkin passed away at the Lakeland General Hospital in 1977 after a lengthy bout with cancer. (Courtesy of home.frognet.net)

George Halderman

According to the Blue Book of Aviation of 1932, George Haldeman was born July 28, 1898 at McPherson, KS.  His family moved to Lakeland, FL where George finished high school in 1916.  He was married in Lakeland on November 13, 1920.

He entered the U.S. Army air service during WWI and attended the School of Military Aeronautics at Austin, TX and was assigned to Wright Field, Dayton, OH as an instructor in aerial aerobatics.  He pursued further training in aerobatics and graduated after the war with an advanced aerobatics certification from Carlstrom Field, Arcadia, FL.  He rose to the rank of 1st Lieutenant and became an instructor and later an engineering officer in charge of engine and propeller overhaul at Dorr and Carlstrom Fields in Arcadia.  He left the service in 1919.

Upon return to civilian life, he had his hands in numerous entrepreneurial efforts.  He operated flying schools in various parts of Florida.  He barnstormed through the southeastern states, carrying passengers, giving wing-walking exhibitions and parachute jumps.  He distributed Curtiss and Waco aircraft in Florida from 1919 to 1927.

In 1921 he made one of the first trans-continental flights from Florida to California.  From 1922-24 he owned and operated the Dixie Highway Garage in Lakeland, FL. During 1925 he was pilot-salesman for the Stinson Aircraft Corp.

On October 11-13, 1927 he attempted a trans-Atlantic flight with Ruth Elder in a Stinson cabin land monoplane named “The American Girl”.  The flight was from Roosevelt Field in New York, but engine trouble forced them to land in the ocean alongside a ship some 350 miles off the Azores.  They were taken aboard and the flight was discontinued.

In 1928, Haldeman was associated with the Schlee-Brock Aircraft Corporation.  Also in 1928, with Eddie Stinson, he broke the world’s non-refueled endurance record at Jacksonville, FL, remaining in the air for 53 hours and 27 minutes.

From 1928-1930 he was chief test pilot and technical advisor for the Bellanca Aircraft Corp.  He participated in the 1928 National Ford Reliability Tour.  In 1928, 1929 and 1930 he won first place for cabin type airplanes in the National Air Races. Below, from the January, 1931 issue of Popular Aviation(PA), is an article written by Haldeman about demonstrating his Bellanca aircraft.

After breaking speed and altitude records, Haldeman returned to his primary interest which was engineering.   He was test pilot for several aviation firms, engineering and testing many of the safety features found on contemporary airplanes: wing slots, flaps, brakes and controllable propellers.

In 1936 Haldeman joined the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) and was aeronautical engineering inspector and eventually rose to chief of the aircraft engineering division of the CAA in Washington, DC.  For years he kept on top of structural and propulsion innovations, traveling abroad to attend conferences and to test-fly the civil and military aircraft of many nations.

In the U.S. he flew the new Boeing 707 jetliner, DC-8 and others.  With this experience he and his CAA team set up the standards for safety for American manufacturers of new jet and turbo-powered aircraft.

Haldeman landed at Tucson three times between 1926 and 1932.  On September 4, 1926 he landed flying a Waco airplane, registration unknown.  He carried a single passenger, H.E. Cornell.  Based at Winter Haven, FL, they were westbound from Lordsburg, NM to Spokane, WA.  They remained in Tucson until the 6th before continuing their journey.

He landed again on July 10, 1928.  This time he was a part of the 1928 National Ford Reliability Tour.  He flew Bellanca CH NX4050, accompanied by two passengers, C.A. Supole and Henry Haut Sterling.  They placed 14th in the 1928 Tour.  Haldeman placed 5th in 1929 Tour. Haldeman’s third visit to Tucson was on August 22, 1932.  He flew Bellanca Skyrocket NC544V.

George Haldeman held transport license #222.  He was a member of Quiet Birdmen, the National Air Pilots Assn., National Aeronautic Assn. and the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.  He passed away on September 10, 1982. (Courtesy of Davis Mothan Aviation Field Register)

Ruth Elder

Ruth Elder was born September 8, 1902 at Anniston, AL.

She was a movie actress and aviation adventurer. Her first fifteen minutes of fame came at a propitious time in 1927 just five months after Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic. She and Register pilot George Haldeman made an attempt to cross the Atlantic together in a yellow Stinson Detroiter named “The American Girl.”

Depending upon the account you read, they flew somewhere between 2,574 and 2,625 miles across the Atlantic in stormy weather, in 28-36 hours, with Ruth at the controls for about nine hours. They were forced to ditch in the water due to an oil leak about 300-360 miles short of the Azores. They were rescued by the Dutch tanker “Barendrecht”.

Regardless of the numbers, and regardless of whether they completed the flight or not, their flight is epochal in two respects. First, it was, up to that time, the longest flight ever made over water. Their distance was probably longer than that measured on the great circle route, since they had to maneuver to avoid storms. Second, it was the longest flight ever made by a woman.

In the midst of the excitement, Elder continued her career as a model and actress, leveraging her pilot skills in the former.

Her second fifteen minutes of fame was in 1929 as a competitor in what has become known as the “Powder Puff Derby”. In the shadow of the unsuccessful trans-Atlantic effort, Ruth kept her chin up and entered the first Women’s Air Derby. She flew against the best of competition and finished in the money. Flying her Swallow, NC8730, she placed a reasonable 5th behind the likes of Louise Thaden, Gladys O’Donnell, Amelia Earhart and Blanche Noyes.

For a number of years after her flights, she was known as the “Miss America of Aviation.” She earned what was then a fortune (about $250,000) from personal appearances and two movies.

After captivating two continents during her 20s and 30s, a number of business setbacks reduced her finances (“The money slipped through my fingers and soon there was nothing”.) Six marriages failed.

Her first marriage was to C.E. Moody, a school teacher. In 1925, three years after her first marriage, she wed Lyle Womack, a member of the Byrd South Pole Expedition. They divorced in 1928. The next year she married Walter Camp, Jr. a director of Madison Square Garden. They divorced in 1932. Then followed G.K. Thackery, Albert Gillespie and Ralph King. In later years she led her life in seclusion with Mr. King, whom she had married twice.

Ruth Elder died October 9, 1977 at home in San Francisco, CA. Mr. King was with her. If you do the math, according to her birth and death dates she died at the age of 74 years and 11 months. News and Web “estimates” range from 73 to 75, another example of the accuracy of contemporary accounts. She had suffered from emphysema for several years. At her request, her ashes were mixed with Mr. King’s ashes after his death and scattered over the Golden Gate Bridge by a crew from an Air Force plane. In the manner of the Golden Age, the romance never ended. (Courtesy of Davis Mothan Field Register)

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright was born on June 8, 1867, in Richland Center, Wisconsin. After college, he became chief assistant to architect Louis Sullivan. Wright then founded his own firm and developed a style known as the Prairie school, which strove for an “organic architecture” in designs for homes and commercial buildings. Over his career he created numerous iconic buildings. He died April 9, 1959.
His mother, Anna Lloyd Jones, was a teacher from a large Welsh family who had settled in Spring Green, Wisconsin, where Wright later built his famous home, Taliesin. His father, William Carey Wright, was a preacher and a musician. Wright’s family moved frequently during his early years, living in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Iowa before settling in Madison, Wisconsin, when Frank Lloyd Wright was 12 years old. He spent his summers with mother’s family in Spring Green. An outdoorsy child, Wright fell deeply in love with the Wisconsin landscape he explored as a boy. “The modeling of the hills, the weaving and fabric that clings to them, the look of it all in tender green or covered with snow or in full glow of summer that bursts into the glorious blaze of autumn,” he later reminisced. “I still feel myself as much a part of it as the trees and birds and bees are, and the red barns.”In 1885, the year Wright graduated from public high school in Madison, his parents divorced and his father moved away, never to be heard from again. That year, Wright enrolled at the University of Wisconsin at Madison to study civil engineering; in order to pay his tuition and help support his family, he worked for the dean of the engineering department and assisted the acclaimed architect Joseph Silsbee with the construction of the Unity Chapel. The experience convinced Wright that he wanted to become an architect, and in 1887 he dropped out of school to go to work for Silsbee in Chicago.
A year later, Wright began an apprenticeship with the Chicago architectural firm of Adler and Sullivan, working directly under Louis Sullivan, the great American architect best known as “the father of skyscrapers.” Sullivan, who rejected ornate European styles in favor of a cleaner aesthetic summed up by his maxim “form follows function,” had a profound influence on Wright, who would eventually carry to completion Sullivan’s dream of defining a uniquely American style of architecture. Wright worked for Sullivan until 1893, when he breached their contract by accepting private commissions to design homes, and the two parted ways.In 1889, a year after he began working for Louis Sullivan, the 22-year-old Wright married a 19-year-old woman named Catherine Tobin, and they eventually had six children together. Their home in the Oak Park suburb of Chicago, now known as the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio, is considered his first architectural masterpiece. It was there that Wright established his own architectural practice upon leaving Adler and Sullivan in 1893. That same year, he designed the Winslow House in River Forest, which with its horizontal emphasis and expansive, open interior spaces is the first example of Wright’s revolutionary style, later dubbed “organic architecture.”Over the next several years, Wright designed a series of residences and public buildings that became known as the leading examples of the “Prairie School” of architecture. These were single-story homes with low, pitched roofs and long rows of casement windows, employing only locally available materials and wood that was always unstained and unpainted, emphasizing its natural beauty. Wright’s most celebrated “Prairie School” buildings include the Robie House in Chicago and the Unity Temple in Oak Park. While such works made Wright a celebrity and his work became the subject of much acclaim in Europe, he remained relatively unknown outside of architectural circles in the United States.In 1909, after 20 years of marriage, Wright suddenly abandoned his wife, children and practice and moved to Germany with a woman named Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of a client. Working with the acclaimed publisher Ernst Wasmuth, while in Germany Wright put together two portfolios of his work that further raised his international profile as one of the leading living architects. In 1913, Wright and Cheney returned to the United States, and Wright designed them a home on the land of his maternal ancestors in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Named Taliesin, Welsh for “shining brow,” it was one of the most acclaimed works of his life. However, tragedy struck in 1914 when a deranged servant set fire to the house, burning it to the ground and killing Cheney and six others. Although Wright was devastated by the loss of his lover and home, he immediately began rebuilding Taliesin in order to, in his own words, “wipe the scar from the hill.”The next year, in 1915, the Japanese Emperor commissioned Wright to design the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. He spent the next seven years on the project, a beautiful and revolutionary building that Wright claimed was “earthquake proof.” Only one year after its completion, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 devastated the city and tested the architect’s claim. Wright’s Imperial Hotel was the city’s only large structure to survive the earthquake intact.Returning to the United States, he married a sculptor named Miriam Noel in 1923; they stayed together for four years before divorcing in 1927. In 1925 another fire, this one caused by an electrical problem, destroyed Taliesin, forcing him to rebuild it once again. In 1928, Wright married his third wife, Olga (Olgivanna) Ivanovna Lazovich—who also went by the name Olga Lazovich Milanov, after her famous grandfather Marko.With architectural commissions grinding to a halt in the early 1930s due to the Great Depression, Wright dedicated himself to writing and teaching. In 1932, he published An Autobiography and The Disappearing City, both of which have become cornerstones of architectural literature. That same year he founded the Taliesin Fellowship, an immersive architectural school based out of his own home and studio. Five years later, he and his apprentices began work on “Taliesin West,” a residence and studio in Arizona that housed the Taliesin Fellowship during the winter months.
By the mid-1930s, approaching 70 years of age, Wright appeared to have peacefully retired to running his Taliesin Fellowship. Then, in 1935, he suddenly burst back onto the public stage to design many of the greatest buildings of his life. Wright announced his return to the profession in dramatic fashion in 1935 with Fallingwater, a residence for Pittsburgh’s acclaimed Kaufmann family. Shockingly original and astonishingly beautiful, Fallingwater is marked by a series of cantilevered balconies and terraces constructed atop a waterfall in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. It remains one of Wright’s most celebrated works, a national landmark that is widely considered one of the most beautiful homes ever built. Then in the late 1930s, Wright constructed about 60 middle-income homes known as “Usonian Houses.” The aesthetic precursor to the modern “ranch house,” these sparse yet elegant houses employed several revolutionary design features such as solar heating, natural cooling and “carports” for automobile storage.During his later years, Wright also turned increasingly to designing public buildings in addition to private homes. He designed the famous SC Johnson Wax Administration Building that opened in Racine, Wisconsin, in 1939. In 1938, Wright put forth a stunning design for the Monona Terrace Civic Center overlooking Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, but he failed to secure public funding for the project. In 1992, 33 years after the architect’s death, the state finally approved funding for the building’s construction, which was completed in 1997, nearly 60 years after Wright finished his designs.In 1943, Wright began a project that consumed the last 16 years of his life—designing the Guggenheim Museum of modern and contemporary art in New York City. “For the first time art will be seen as if through an open window, and, of all places, in New York. It astounds me,” Wright said upon receiving the commission. An enormous white cylindrical building spiraling upward into a Plexiglass dome, the museum consists of a single gallery along a ramp that coils up from the ground floor. While Lloyd’s design was highly controversial at the time, it is now revered as one of New York City’s finest buildings.
Frank Lloyd Wright passed away on April 9, 1959, at the age 91, six months before the Guggenheim opened its doors. Wright is widely considered the greatest architect of the 20th century, and the greatest American architect of all time. He perfected a distinctly American style of architecture that emphasized simplicity and natural beauty in contrast to the elaborate and ornate architecture that had prevailed in Europe. With seemingly superhuman energy and persistence, Wright designed more than 1,100 buildings during his lifetime, nearly one third of which he designed during his last decade. The historian Robert Twombly wrote of Wright, “His surge of creativity after two decades of frustration was one of the most dramatic resuscitations in American art history, made more impressive by the fact that Wright was seventy years old in 1937.” Wright lives on through the beautiful buildings he designed, as well as through the powerful and enduring idea that guided all of his work—that buildings should serve to honor and enhance the natural beauty surrounding them. “I would like to have a free architecture,” Wright wrote. “Architecture that belonged where you see it standing—and is a grace to the landscape instead of a disgrace.”(Courtesy of Biography.com)

Robert Bryant

Robert Bryant was born in Lake City, Florida, on October 2, 1849, to Thomas and Susan (Niblack) Bryant. He was the fourth born son and was one of eleven children born into the Bryant Family. He and his siblings were home schooled at the family residence in Lake City and he attended one year of public school before his family moved to Socrum, Florida in 1869 and established their family homestead.He was 15 years old when the Civil War Battle of Olustee was fought on February 20, 1864, near Lake City in Baker County. This was the largest battle of the Civil War to be fought in Florida.As a young man he became a merchant and opened a small business in Kathleen, near Lakeland, which he owned and operated for 25 years. He also established a large cattle business and became a successful business and property owner and well known builder. He established a partnership with W.D. McRae and together they developed two well known subdvisions in Lakeland and donated land to the county upon which Lakeland High School was built. In 1904 he built his first large office and retail building in Lakeland and named it the Bryant Building. In 1913, he again formed a partnership with C.W Deen, and together they built the Deen-Bryant Building, another large office building complex at the corner of Kentucky and Main Street in Lakeland. He purchased and rebuilt the Adams building and erected his 4th large building at the corner of Pine and Florida Street.He was reputed to be one of the wealthiest and most successful business men in Polk County.Although he was a religious man, he was never a member of one denomination but was very generous in his financial support to all the churches in Lakeland. He is well loved remembered for his generous and kind nature and for his many contributions to his community and county. Although he was keenly interested in governmental affairs, he never sought a political office and instead contributed to his community as a businessman, developer and philanthropist.Robert Bryant passed away in Lakeland, Florida on May 29, 1925, and was buried at the Bethel Church Cemetery in Socrum.

(Courtesy of www.findagrave.com)

Thomas Bryant

Thomas W. Bryant, who graduated from Lakeland High School in 1909, is considered the father of the Dreadnaughts. His family left Socrum because there was no high school north of Lakeland for him to attend. Although he was the salutatorian of his high school class and also senior class president, he is remembered for organizing the first football team, nicknamed Tom Bryant’s Follies. Being too small to play football at the University of Florida, where he attended law school, he served as assistant manager of the Gators and was their number one fan. In fact, he did not miss a Gator home game for fifty-eight years. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1915, having served as the president of both his class and the student body. He enlisted in the army in November 1917 and saw action at St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne sector.  Except for six years in Gainesville and a year in France as an artillery sergeant, Polk County was his home his entire life. He practiced law here until he was more that eighty years old.Tom Bryant served three terms in the state legislature in the 1920′s and on the Board of Regents at the University of Florida for fourteen years. Because of his influence Polk County led the way in resurfacing its highways, a section of State Road 33, from Leesburg to Lakeland is named the Thomas W. Bryant Highway. He wanted both a swimming pool and a football stadium for Lakeland and in 1939 had WPA funds approved. Although the project was canceled twice he persevered. The sixty-five-thousand-dollar concrete football stadium was dedicated to him on September 26, 1941, at the first game of the season, with Governor Spessard Holland as speaker. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Florida in 1956.A power behind the scenes in Florida politics, Tom Bryant was probably the most important man in the state at one time. Little happened between the 1920′s and the 1950′s in Florida without his knowing about it. He frequently said, “I never sought to be a man at the head table, but I have always been interested in who did sit there.” He also held true to his position on athletics: “Give me a good winning football team and you’ll get the necessary support for accomplishing your academic objectives.” He lived by another belief: “The law is important.”

Frances Langford

Frances Langford, the little country girl with the big talent, became the “Sweetheart of World War II.” She was the daughter of a talented pianist and a construction foreman who supervised the building of the 1926 Lakeland High School. During the Depression he had little work, and Frances was too poor to be considered a natural. In an interview, she described her development: “I started out with a colorature soprano voice. That wasn’t very popular with the kids at school. My ambition was to be an opera singer. But then I had very bad bronchitis for so long the doctor said my tonsils would have to come out. He didn’t know if I would be able to sing at all after that. After my throat healed I decided to try it, and it was altogether different! I was real happy with it.” The students were happy with it, too, as Frances was frequently asked to sing at chapel.

Rudy Valle, a well-known band leader who frequently played in Tampa, heard her sing on a Clearwater radio station. He invited her to join his band in New Orleans, and after that the world was her stage. She played with many bands, sang on national radio stations, and even had parts in several films, including The Glenn Miller Story, in which she played herself. Although more than fifteen million Frances Langford records have been sold, the song she is most remembered for is “I’m in the Mood for Love.” She met Bob Hope while making movies and traveled with him on many of his USO trips, entertaining millions of servicemen all over the world. General Dwight D. Eisenhower thanked her personally for the impact she had on his troops.

After her success, Lakeland High School students started the Frances Langford Glee Club, and in 1946 the City of Lakeland named the walk around Lake Mirror the Frances Langford Promenade. The greatest tribute to her, however, was the recollection of one soldier: “Bob Hope said, ‘Here’s Frances Langford,’ and there was a din you would not believe. She was stunningly dressed, though simply. It was good to see a clean, neat American girl who spoke our language and thought like we do. She sang and sang from the bottom of her heart. . . . She will never know what that did for us. For a few seconds we were back in our natural surroundings and completely happy.”

Lawton Chiles

When junior high school student Levie Smith was resting after a sandlot football game on the grounds of Lake Morton Elementary School, he asked a tow-headed seven year old sitting on the curb what he wanted to do when he grew up. Lawton Chiles answered,”I want to be a U.S. Senator.” And that is exactly what he became.

Students in the 1948 graduation class at Lakeland High School could of have predicted his success. He was president of the student body,and he represented LHS at Boys’ State in 1947. Active in many school actives, Lawton was a member of the “L” Club, Classical Club, Key Club,and Hi Spot Council. He also ran track and played center on the football team. He remembered the 1947 season as dismal:”In order to have a scrimmage some of the coaches had to play. . . .It was a year of character building.” His classmates described him as calm ,level headed, personable, and ambitious.

After graduation from the University of Florida and serving as an army artillery officer in Korea, Lawton became a Lakeland attorney. In 1958 he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives and in 1996 he advanced to the state Senate. When he decided to run for the United State Senate in 1970, he learned from his poll that his name was recognized by only five percent of people interviewed. Inspiration struck, his solution being to walk the length of the state to gain exposure. He walked 1,033 miles form Pensacola to Miami in ninety one days and visited with forty thousand people along the way. Wearing out five pairs of boots,”Walkin’ Lawton” walked himself into the United State Senate. He served three terms sponsoring the Sunshine Law in 1976 and becoming the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee in 1987. After retiring from the Senate in 1988, he ran for governor of Florida in 1990. An astute politician, he declared a one hundred dollar limit on campaign contributions and became the forty -first  governor of Florida. Chiles considered his eight-year tenure the pinnacle of his public service. Highlights included his successful lawsuit against the tobacco industry to compensate for medical costs and health coverage for poor children. During his forty-year political career, he never lost an election.

When Lawton Chiles died suddenly three weeks before completing his second term as governor, President William Clinton said,” Lawton was statesman, a role model and one of the most successful and respected public officials in the later half of the twentieth century.” He was further eulogized as a populist, one of Florida’s major political figures and an uncommon man with the common touch. Shortly before his death Chiles said about his own life,”It’s been a wonderful journey.”

In 1999 Lakelanders took pride in naming the former Lakeland High School, Chiles’ alma mater, the Lawton Chiles Middle Academy.

Neva Jane Langley

Neva Jane Langley, winner of the 1953 Miss America Pageant, graduated from Lakeland High School in 1950. Born in Lakeland during the depth of the Depression, she started playing the piano at age seven, through a program sponsored by the WPA. When her parents saw how interested she was, they provided her with a private instructor. She once said about her early life, “Lakeland was an absolutely ideal place to grow up in. I loved it.” And everybody loved her. She played the piano at weddings, social clubs, and church and also performed on a weekly radio program. In high school she was a cheerleader, secretary of Student Council and a member of the Classical Club, Honor Society, and Quill and Scroll. She was Lakeland High School’s Homecoming Queen her sophomore year and Miss Merry Christmas her junior year. When she was sixteen, she became the Tangerine Queen at the Tangerine Contest in Winter Haven.

After graduating from high school, she spent a year at Florida Southern and then began studying music at Wesleyan Conservatory in Macon, Georgia. It was the college’s fine arts dean who nominated her for the Miss Macon contest. After winning that, she won the Miss Georgia competition, and then it was on to Atlantic City. Since televising the national pageant did not start until 1955, Lakeland residents listened to it on the radio. Although students were overjoyed to hear that Neva Jane had been proclaimed the most beautiful and talented young woman in America, they disliked hearing her referred to as “Georgia’s own . . . .” To everybody here she was “Lakeland‘s own.” After winning both the talent and swimsuit competition and then the crown on September 6, 1952, Neva Jane traveled to forty-seven states during the following year. Traveling with a chaperon, she made public appearances almost every day of her year-long reign. The five thousand dollar scholarship prize helped her to finish college.

Neva Jane Langley

Neva Jane married and raised two sons and two daughters in Macon. After a twenty-five-year hiatus, she returned to her musical career. She was a guest soloist with the Macon Symphony Orchestra, the Utah Symphony Orchestra, and the Symphony Orchestra in Benevento, Italy. In April 1998 she returned to Lakeland to give a concert at the Polk Theatre. She also recorded a CD and was awarded an honorary doctorate. Not one to rest on her former glory, she served as the president of music, garden, and social clubs in Macon. On one occasion she was instrumental in raising $160,000 in one night to restore an 1848 Macon opera house. She has been described as genuine and caring, a person who never meets a stranger. Her Lakeland pastor said, “Neva’s beauty and personality are reflections of her character and spiritual nature . . . she has always sought to do the greatest good with her talent.”

 

Wayne Peace

Wayne Peace is the only LHS graduate who was appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Although his father, Lamar Peace, had also been an outstanding athlete at Lakeland High School, even a member of the 1957-58 state champion basketball team, it was his mother who contributed the most to his football interest. In an interview for the Bagpipe Wayne said, “Dad works a lot, so it was Mom (the former Joann Spears, also an LHS graduate) who passed the football to me. She throws really well, and she’s a really great kicker.” At Crystal Lake Junior High School, Wayne had participated in all sports; on the football team he was both quarterback and linebacker for the Mustangs.

At Lakeland High School he was the starting quarterback for the Dreadnaughts all three years. According to Coach Bill Castle, “Wayne was a turing point in establishing a winning tradition at the school. He took us from being an average team to going to playoffs every year.” In Wayne’s senior year, Lakeland advanced to the class 4A semifinals in football. He was honored by being named to the all-county and all-state teams, and he also won the Silver garland athletic award. Another honor was being named an all-American by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. In addition to playing football, he was a member of the Dreadnaught basketball team for three years. In his junior year the team advanced to the Class 4A state title game before losing to Stuart County; in his senior year the team spent most of the year ranked No. 1 in the state but lost in the sectional finals to Tampa Robinson. During his high school career he was twice a winner in the Calendar Couple contest, is senior year being pictured on the cover with future wife, Melanie Britt.

One of the most highly recruited athletes, Wayne received visits from Joe Namath, Bear Bryant, and Bobby Bowden. He chose the University of Florida because he wanted to be close to home. He was the Gators’ starting quarterback for four straight years, setting school records for career completions percentage (61.7) and consecutive passes without an interception (117). It was in 1982 that he appeared on the cover of the September 13 issue of Sports Illustrated. In 1983, his senior year, the Gators were ranked Sixth in the nation. His pro football career spanned three seasons and five teams; he saw regular action only with the Tampa Bay Bandits of the United States Football League. His earnings, however, gave him the funds to do something he always wanted, to have his own business and work for himself. Wayne frequently tells young people, “Athletics go by so fast and you’re going to have to live after they are over. Things in your life are going to happen unexpectedly, and how you adjust is how well you’re going to succeed in life.” His attitude is what coaches have always appreciated about him. Coach Doug Walstad said, “He’s the classiest person to go through here since I’ve been here; he was friends with everyone. He’s just a good person.” His father said, “Through it all, he hasn’t changed one bit.”

 

Lee Jansen

Lee Janzen, a 1982 Lakeland High School graduate, won the U.S. Open in both 1993 and 1998, victories which represent the pinnacle of success for a professional golfer. He had played golf only once or twice before he moved to Lakeland in 1976, at the age of twelve. He became an All-Star for the Dixieland Little League and played on the Lakeland Highlands Junior High School golfteam at Cleveland Heights Country Club. Although he had been reluctant to leave his rural Maryland home when his father was transferred—Lakeland was too much of a city for his taste—he later saw it as a lucky move because in Florida he had the opportunity to play golf year ’round. He spent his spare time at the Imperial Lakes Country Club and worked there every summer.

When Lee first announced to the Lakeland High School golf coach that he would be on his golf team, Eddie Postell said, “The heck you are!.” Lee was 5’2″ tall and could not even earn one of the first slots his sophomore year. His talent and determination brought rapid improvement, however, and in his junior year he was ranked fourth in the district. A serious injury in an automobile accident— the artery in his right arm was severed and a vein from his ankle used as a graft— set him back only two or three months. Between his junior and senior year he grew eight inches, and his senior year was his best. He finished at Lakeland High School first in the district and tenth in the state.’

At Florida Southern, Lee set nine school records and won the NCAA Division II Championship at Innisbrook in 1986. He received the Mocs MVP awards his junior year and led the college team to its fourth NCAA National Title his senior year. After turning pro, he won his first PGA tournament, the Northern Telecom Open, in 1992. In 1993 he won both the Phoenix Open and the U.S Open at Baltusrol. In 1994 he won the Buick Classic, and in 1995 he won three tournaments: the Kemper Open, the Sprint International, and the Players Championship. On Sunday, June 23, 1998, Lee shot a final-round 68 to win the prestigious U.S. Open for a second time. His career earnings as of 1997 totaled $5,131,506. For the six-foot golfer often referred to as “Cool Hand Luke”, however, the satisfaction goes beyond money. Twice he has been picked for the Ryder Cup team, in Belfry, England, in 1993 and in Sotogrande, Spain, in 1997. “It’s an honor to represent the United States in anything,” Janzen said, “but in the Ryder Cup, it is even more of an honor.”

 

Park Trammel

Park Trammel, born in 1876, became one of Florida’s most distinguished citizens. He became mayor of Lakeland in 1899, representative to the

legislature in 1902, state senator in 1905, state attorney general in 1909, and governor of Florida in 1913. He was elected in 1916 to the United States Senate, where he had a distinguished career until his death in 1936.

Park’s father, John Trammell, was Lakeland’s first mayor. Park attended the Lakeland public schools and went to Tennessee to study law.When he returned to Lakeland to practice law, he had only ten dollars in his pocket. He was elected mayor of Lakeland when he was just twenty-three years old. He also bought the local newspaper the Lake Region Sun, in partnership with a friend. He was the first governor to hail from Polk County; during his administration came the first real start toward a state system of paved highways was made by the creation of the State Road Department. He was the first United States senator from Polk County, and when he died after having served twenty years in the Senate, flags flew at half staff in both Tallahassee and Washington. An editorial appearing in the Ledger on May 10, 1936, said, “He was honest — this is the highest praise.”  Lakeland’s first public library was named the Park Trammel Library, and today the street just south of Lakeland Regional Medical Center bears his name.

J Hardin Peterson

J. Hardin Peterson graduated from Lakeland High School in 1911, the only boy in a class of five. Three years later he had earned a law degree from the University of Florida and started practicing in Lakeland. During WWI he was a chief petty officer in the Navy, working as an aide to Navy Undersecretary Franklin Delano Roosevelt. For the next sixteen years he served as Lakeland’s city attorney. In 1932 when FDR was elected President, Peterson was elected to the Seventy-third Congress of the United States. A close working relationship continued until Roosevelt’s death in 1945.

Politics in this era meant hand shaking and stump speaking; in Peterson’s case it meant meeting voters in eighteen countries. For this energetic and friendly man, close contact with people was a favorite activity. Under two Presidents he served his constituents through the Depression and WWII. He was a member of the House Senate Conference Committee which drafted the GI Bill of Rights. As chairman of the Public Lands committee he was responsible for the creation of the Everglades National Park and was a key figure when more than two thousand square miles were transferred from the state of Florida to the Department of the Interior. J. Hardin Peterson was an environmentalist before the term was in vogue.

After 1951 he resumed his law practice in Lakeland and pursued his interests in history, rock collection, and community service. He was an outgoing family man who always looked on the positive side. When he died in 1978, former Governor Millard Caldwell paid tribute to Mr. Pete with this line: “I don’t know if he ever had an enemy in his life.”

Lindsey Alley

Although success usually occurs after high school graduation, Lindsey Alley achieved fame before even starting at LHS. As a toddler she started singing and speaking at the same time. At age six she landed a part in The Sound of Music at the Mark Howard Dinner Theater in Lakeland. At age seven she played in The King and I and Annie for Mark Howard and in Really Rosie and Tom Sawyer for Pied Piper Players. With Mark Howard’s encouragement, she auditioned for Annie at the Burt Reynolds Theater in Jupiter in 1985. She was eight years old. More than three thousand prospective Annies tried out, but it was Lakeland’s talented little girl who landed the part. The next year she co-starred with Burt Reynolds , by then a good friend, in a B.L. Stryker TV movie of the week. When Lindsey was in fifth grade, the Disney Channel’s new Mickey Mouse club was getting started. This time she auditioned with six thousand other children from across the United States and made the final cut. During her six wonderful seasons as a Mouseketeer, she taped more than 360 half-hour shows and traveled all over the country. Even though she worked from April to November, location tutors worked with her teachers at Southwest Junior High School and Lakeland High School so that she could continue in her regular schools.

Lindsey’s senior year was her first high school year without a Disney commitment, and she participated with intensity in school activities. She was a member of Keyettes and the National Honor Society and vice president of the Student Council. In her television production class, she worked behind the scenes as much as in front, motivating her peers both to go before the camera and to tackle imaginative projects. She was not only a model student; she was the Homecoming Queen of 1995. Her one-woman show, “Tellin’ It Like It Is”, was based on her journals.

Lindsey has always been generous in sharing her talent. She sang at the contemporary service at the First United Methodist Church for two years and with the Sunshine Chorus of the Sheltered Workshop for six. Her Lakeland High School family’s pride was based on her character as well as her talent. She was described by her teachers as being outgoing, dynamic, diligent, sensitive, focused, and winsome. One teacher pointed out that one of her most remarkable qualities was her ability to change from a star to a high school student without any carryover of ego or temperament.

Lindsey went on to study music theater at the University of Missouri in Columbia. She is never happier than when she is singing and dancing. Broadway is her ultimate goal, even if she has to earn money first through television and film. Burt Reynolds said of her: “She is the most talented young lady I’ve ever worked with, and the sweetest, most grounded person I’ve ever met. She will be successful at whatever she chooses to do.”

 

 

Schedule your visit to discover Cypress Trace

UNIQUELY NATURAL…close to everything, yet away from it all.