One of the best resources for those wishing to learn more about the Pace Area and Santa Rosa County is M. Luther King's "History of Santa Rosa County." Mr. King lived this history from 1899 till 1965. After his death his daughter, Martha King Graham gathered and prepared his notes from the outline he had planned for this book. The family agreed that the material should be in print so others could have access to its contents.
Now the family has agreed to let us publish this wonderful work online! We are indeed grateful for the opportunity to share this material with viewers on the web. We will be uploading chapters as they are scanned and converted to searchable text. If the chapter you are looking for is not up yet, come back later!
M. Luther King seemed strangely out of place in the classroom, where I reported as a senior student at Santa Rosa County's Allentown High School in September, 1937. He had the rugged features of an outdoorsman, one who was intimately acquainted with physical labor. His face, darkened somewhat beyond the natural by exposure to the sun, featured a strong jaw, prominent nose and thoughtful, dark eyes, at the corners of which some crinkly care lines were beginning to merge. His hair was thick, dark and unruly. Seated at the head of a long table around which his students assembled, Mr. King spoke slowly and hesitantly in a hoarse drawl, and even then in seemingly reluctant response to questions.
He spoke slowly at first, directing comments and questions at individual students. The course, which could have been loosely called "American Problems," was heavy with supplementary Florida and local interest. It was a standard course, but one loaded with local and regional history, geography and current events. As he warmed up to his subject that first day, his rugged, somewhat Lincolnesque features became animated and his speech, no longer hesitant or halting, became fluent, at times even eloquent. I quickly sensed that I had found in a small rural school a teacher of exceptional ability, and I knew that he was doing what he most wanted to do. I saw him from time to time for the next 28 years, but I never saw him with a happier expression than he had while teaching in that classroom.
He was a master of his subjects, and a master story teller - particularly if the stories were about the history, legends and folklore of Santa Rosa County. He must have felt a sense of creative fulfillment, as he visibly succeeded in awakening in many of his students an interest in the long ignored but colorful and richly romantic history of their own county and neighboring areas.
He sometimes acknowledged to his close associates a conviction that a person must "live Florida" in order to write about it with the human touch, or even to teach it with "great depth of feeling." He found that too many books about Florida, including textbooks, had been written by individuals who had never "lived Florida," and he found that too many teachers were depending almost solely upon such books for information about their own county and state. Mr. King "lived West Florida" for more than a half century, and his writing and his teaching betrayed unmistakably his "great depth of feeling" for the county and area that he knew so well. He sought to know more, much more than the physical features and some superficial facts about the region. He wanted a depth of background that exposed the very soul of the area, from the Indian and Colonial Eras until today.
A self-made teacher, M. (for Martin) Luther King was born Oct. 13, 1899, in Covington County, Ala., where he attended elementary school. He later attended Allentown High School in Covington's neighboring Florida county to the southwest, Santa Rosa. Mr. King passed Florida's "Uniform State Teachers' Examination" to earn a teacher's certificate in June, 1927, at age 28. He started teaching that September in small, rural Greenwood School. He then taught a year at Fidelis School and a year at McClellan School, all near the Alabama-Florida line. He moved in 1930 to Allentown High School, near the center of Santa Rosa County, where I found him teaching seven years later.
Mr. King was a principal-teacher at Bagdad Elementary School from 1939 to 1946, when he became principal of Berryhill Elementary School in Milton. He was principal of Canal Street School in Milton from 1953 until his death on August 19, 1965. His school was chosen five times during his career to help develop teaching aids for statewide usage, and on three occasions his school was designated as a "pilot school" to try out new materials and teaching methods. A new Milton elementary school today bears Mr. King's name, bestowed as a posthumous honor. in recognition of his contributions to the cause of education.
Mr. King served at least once as president of the Milton Kiwanis Club, and he served the First Florida Kiwanis District at least once as lieutenant governor. He served as president of the West Florida Education Association and as a member of the executive committee of the Florida Education Association. He was a member of the Florida Elementary Principals' Association and the Florida Geography Teachers' Council, serving on the executive committee of each. A member of the Methodist Church, he was a longtime Men's Class teacher and a longtime Sunday School superintendent. He was also a lay speaker in the Alabama-North west Florida Methodist Conference.
It was characteristic of Mr. King that, while he was doing all of these things, he also continued relentlessly in his quest for personal knowledge. He remained at heart a scholar. He constantly sought background information, seeking the reasons for specific historical events and collecting and evaluating the legends and folklore of the area. He did, in fact, remain a student most of his adult life.
He passed an equivalency examination to qualify for entry at Florida State College for Women (now Florida State University) for the summer session of 1931. The then women's college in Tallahassee only accepted men students (chiefly teachers) for special summer courses only. Mr. King continued attending the college's summer sessions until 1947, when his dogged persistence paid off with a BA Degree, the first such degree to be awarded a male graduate of the newly designated (and by now co-educational) Florida State University. The degree was based on the broadest major available in the social sciences. He continued his studies at the University, where in 1953,'he was awarded a Master of Arts degree in elementary and secondary school administration and supervision. His college career, in summer sessions only, had spanned a period of 22 years.
Throughout his career, Mr. King researched and compiled historical information about Santa Rosa County and many of its communities and neighboring areas. His notes became outlines for class discussions. These outlines, in the natural course of events, became organized much as chapters are to make a book. It is likely that some of his "chapters" also met some of his assignment requirements for his university courses.
I was among those who urged Mr. King from time to time to preserve his outlines for publication., as a History of Santa Rosa County. He indicated an interest and the,intention perhaps of doing that at some future time. It seemed that he didn't feel that he had ever found the time to complete the work sufficiently to provide in-depth information about all communities in the county. He had worked on this aspect of the proposed book for some considerable time during his last busy years. Unfortunately, following his death, some of these outlines were never found.
His work as it stands, despite the absence in his collection of chapters devoted solely to Chumuckla, Jay, Fidelis, McClellan, Munson, Holley and Gulf Breeze, is a near-priceless contribution to regional archives and public information. It is a storehouse of romantically rich and colorfully factual information about Santa Rosa County that is available nowhere else.
I'm glad that the book at least is being published, and with only slight alterations and minor editing in a conscious effort to preserve as much as possible of Mr. King's own language, including his characteristic expressions and phraseology. The book is a legacy of and a memorial to a man who overcame many obstacles to perform exemplary services for the people and places that he knew and loved. May it be a reminder to each reader that the places where he taught and about which he wrote are today hopefully a part of a better and more interesting world - because M. Luther King passed this way.
When my father was in his early twenties, he sold magazine subscriptions to the people living in the rural areas around Allentown. He carried samples of the magazines ("Country Gentleman," "Saturday Evening Post," and others) in a bag with a shoulder strap as he walked from farmhouse to farmhouse selling subscriptions. I am told the residents were very receptive to this reading material because most did not have any current literature coming into their home. While making his calls, many of the families also encouraged him to spend the night, and on occasion he would accept their invitation, stay overnight, and then begin anew the following morning.
On those occasions, he had numerous opportunities to talk to people who had lived in Santa Rosa County for many years and who had much to tell about its earlier days. This is probably when he first became interested in the history of this county and from then until his death, more than forty years later, he was a student of Santa Rosa County history.
He gleaned his information from every source imaginable but possibly his most gratifying references were those old settlers who shared with him their first-hand experiences and knowledge of the events that made the history of those early days. He spent much of his free time in the pursuit of this history he enjoyed so much.
His efforts as a teacher, principal and citizen were directed at imparting his knowledge of and enthusiasm for his subject to his pupils and to any other interested listener. He was a frequent speaker at meetings of civic clubs and public gatherings, and for several years he presented a weekly program on a local radio station. He also wrote numerous articles for newspapers and other publications. The material he used in his teaching, speaking, broadcasting, and writing became the source of this endeavor.
In the years preceding his illness and death in 1965 he began to gather and arrange the materials he intended to incorporate into a book. Prior to his death, he had compiled and indexed his work, which included all of the communities of the county and many events which added color to the local history. After his death we were unable to locate many of these writings and consequently those items have been omitted from this work.
Following his death, the family (my mother, Mrs. M. Luther King; my sister, Mrs. [Sue] Buddy Lowery; a brother, Martin L. King, Jr.; all of Milton; another brother, William R. King, of Fort Monmouth, N.J.; my father's two sisters, Mrs. [Ethel] F. I. Coley of Pensacola and Mrs. [Shelly Gray] F. E. Willis of Tallahassee; and I) agreed that the material should be in print so others could have access to its contents.
Having talked with my father about the book's progress during the long illness prior to his death, I volunteered to undertake the project and considered it a special challenge. With this in mind, I began gathering and preparing his notes from the outline he had planned for his book exercising special care not to make any unnecessary changes in the original material.
The completion of this volume would have been impossible without the generous contributions from many people, far too numerous to mention here. However, I am especially grateful to Mrs. Terry Poole of Clearwater, Fla., Dr. W. Coker of the University of West Florida in Pensacola, my brother-in-law, Buddy Lowery, Mrs. W. L. (Lerlie) Whitmire, Miss S. E. Stewart, Mrs. Addie McRae and Mrs. Claude Davis all of Milton. In addition, the recommendations and suggestions of my mother and sister, Sue, have been a continuing inspiration.
I am also deeply indebted to our dear friend, Mr. E. W. Carswell of Chipley for his ever-present assistance, encouragement, and support. I sought and received his advice on numerous occasions.
To my husband must also go a word of appreciation for his cooperation and understanding during this long and involved undertaking.
Having the opportunity to prepare this book has been very interesting- and rewarding for me. However, as a novice in this type of endeavor, there were times when I felt discouraged, but the continued interest of many friends in Santa Rosa County and northwest Florida helped give me the encouragement needed. May this book be a fitting memorial to my father who spent so many hours gathering and writing its contents.
Martha King Graham
When I come to consider these as wasted
years Dear God, wilt Thou be patient with me? Thou who knowest my penchant for needless
fears, As well as my forgetfulness of that power
of Thee. Too, Thou knowest these potentials of
theirs, That my feeble eyesight has failed to
see, Wilt Thou, then, 0 God, attune these eyes
and ears, That have tried to understand - even on
bended knee, So that they may even know a child's needs
that even yet are to be Known to him. Otherwise through a vale
of tears; These things, dear God, should come to
me After, it is Thy hand that for me steers, A course fairly judged, by Thee, as a
fitting one for me.
When I come to consider these as wasted years
Dear God, wilt Thou be patient with me?
Thou who knowest my penchant for needless fears,
As well as my forgetfulness of that power of Thee.
Too, Thou knowest these potentials of theirs,
That my feeble eyesight has failed to see,
Wilt Thou, then, 0 God, attune these eyes and ears,
That have tried to understand - even on bended knee,
So that they may even know a child's needs that even yet are to be
Known to him. Otherwise through a vale of tears;
These things, dear God, should come to me
After, it is Thy hand that for me steers,
A course fairly judged, by Thee, as a fitting one for me.