Black History Month Book Project

Celebrating Legends of Apopka in Honor of Black History Month

Carter G. Woodson, the “Father of Black history,” set out to broaden the nation’s consciousness by designating a time to honor the overlooked accomplishments of black people. Black History Month celebrates the culture, sacrifices, and achievements of our country’s black Americans.

The City of Apopka, Apopka Youth Council, and the Apopka Historical Society Museum of the Apopkans honor twenty-eight trailblazers that have paved the way for so many in our community. The legends that persevered despite challenges and overcame the unthinkable.

Let us always remember, there is no American history without Black History.

Special Event

Join us for a special event at the Billie Dean Community Center on February 26, 2023 at 3 PM. Light refreshments will be served. 

Roland Baker (1942 to 2002)

Roland Baker

Roland Baker was born in Apopka to parents Roland Sr. and Charlie Mae Baker, he attended Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, worked in the citrus industry in various capacities and was a professional truck driver. Mr. Baker’s family had a lifetime relationship with the late Mayor John Land’s family where his grandmother Hannah Williams, an early settler, worked. Mr. Baker was a member of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, Apopka. Mr. Baker’s early involvement the Masonic family began at the historical Davis Lodge #47, AF & AM founded in 1928 located at South Central Ave and Michael Gladden Blvd., Apopka where he quickly became a very dedicated and trusted member. Mr. Baker was an advocate for citizens in Apopka and surrounding areas. He spearheaded the committee to change 9th Street to Michael Gladden Blvd. 

Apopka Trailblazer: Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Florida and a devoted community activist.

Thomas "Tom" Barnes (1882 to 1958)

Thomas _Tom_ Barnes

Thomas "Tom" Barnes moved to Apopka in the early 20th Century. Tom was an expert farmer and beekeeper. He was also a trustee for the Apopka Colored School. In 1926, Tom Barnes and Cecil Ross opened a moving picture theatre for blacks in the Odd-Fellows Hall at 9th and Central.

Apopka Trailblazer: Community activist and trustee of the Apopka Colored School. 

Mildred A. Board (1914 to 2006)

Mildred A. Board

Mildred Agnes Board graduated from Bethune-Cookman College with a degree in Elementary Education and a Masters from the University of North Carolina, Durham. She was a well-respected librarian at Phillis Wheatley and Apopka Junior High. Her commitment to empower Apopka's youth led to her developing the first black Girl Scout troop and many other organizations.

Apopka Trailblazer: Well respected librarian that created the first Girl Scout troop for black girls in Apopka.

Joseph Clinton Brown, Jr. III (1956 to 2022)

Joseph Clinton Brown Jr. III

Born on June 9, 1956 in the Bronx, Joseph Brown led a life committed to serving his community. His career began in the United States military, serving in the Army for six years before going to college and attending the police academy at Seminole Community College. He later worked for the City of Apopka for twenty-two years and made his way up the ranks from Officer to Chief, and became Apopka's first black police chief.

Apopka Trailblazer: First black Chief of Police in the City of Apopka.

Allen Prince Chisholm (1912 to 2006)

Allen Prince Chisholm

Allen Chisholm was an Army veteran and early entrepreneur in the Apopka area. He created a home delivery business that supplied residents with fresh fruits and vegetables from his family garden. His superb customer service enabled him to remain in business for over 60 years. 

Apopka Trailblazer: Entrepreneur that created a home delivery service for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Reverend Morris Chisholm (1882 to 1954)

Rev. Morris Chisholm

Reverend Morris Chisholm settled in Apopka's Mead's Bottom in 1905 and was the last known resident of this settlement. He fought to maintain his property in Mead's Bottom despite the City Council's effort to segregate the town and use tax delinquencies to move as many blacks out of what was deemed a white section. He was an independent farmer and community leader. 

Apopka Trailblazer: Meads Bottom settler, community leader, and respected landowner.

James Davis (1930 to 2016)

James Davis

James Davis was born during the 1930 depression years and nurtured in Orange County. He attended primary school at the Apopka Colored School. James pursued a bachelor's degree at the Florida A&M University and later taught at Jones High School and Phillis Wheatley. James became the first black Master Electrician and taught Industrial Arts, Drafting and Electricity. James concluded his career as the Executive Assistant to the President of Florida A&M. He served as the University's Lobbyist for Governmental Relations and Legislative Affairs.

Apopka Trailblazer: First black master electrician in the Apopka area. He was an educator and lobbyist.

Billie Dean (1931 to 2020)

Billie Dean

In 1994, Commissioner Billie Dean was elected as the second black City Council Commissioner in Apopka. As a veteran, retired teacher, and activist, Commissioner Dean's mission was driven by his love and support for his community. He served as a member of many organizations across Florida as well as a board member for the Lake Apopka Natural Gas Board of Directors. The Billie Dean Community Center at Alonzo Williams Park is named in his honor. 

Apopka Trailblazer: Second black commissioner for the City of Apopka. Respected educator and business owner.

Faithy Dowdell (1923 to 1993)

Faithy Dowdell

Faithy Dowdell was born in Alabama and moved to Apopka in the mid 1940's with his family. Mr. Dowdell was a community leader, grocery store owner, mentor, and President of the Apopka branch of the NAACP. He organized voter registration drives in Apopka, and served as a deacon of Pleasant View Baptist Church and Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church. He filed a class action discrimination lawsuit against the City of Apopka in the early 1980's.

Apopka Trailblazer: Machinist for Coca Cola Company, activist, and community advocate.

Richard Allen Franks (1902 to 1994)

Richard Allen Franks

Richard Allen Franks was eighteen when he led his five siblings out of Ocoee as they fled the Ocoee Massacre. They settled in Plymouth, Florida in Northwest Orange County, where he was a community leader and an early member of St. James A.M.E Church in Plymouth.

Apopka Trailblazer: Community pioneer that escaped the Ocoee Massacre and settled in Plymouth.

Anthony Frazier (1836 to 1910)

Anthony Frazier Credit to Don P. from online manuscript The Amazing Story of Ethel

Anthony Frazier, was born in Liberty County, Georgia in 1836. He spent most of his life as a slave and farmhand. In his late 20's he was freed from the Delk plantation here in Northwest Orange County. Frazier was instrumental in establishing the Rock Springs Colored School. In 1880, he was appointed as an Orange County Road Commissioner and was tasked with building a public road from Orlando to Rock Springs.

Apopka Trailblazer: Helped establish the Rock Springs Colored School.

Marie Gladden (1904 to 2004)

Marie Gladden

Mrs. Marie Gladden earned her Elementary Education degree from Florida A&M University. She later received her Master's Degree from Columbia University. She began her teaching career in 1923 and later married Michael Gladden, Jr. After teaching for many years, Mrs. Gladden became the Principal of Phillis Wheatley Elementary. 

Apopka Trailblazer: Bethune Cookman College Alumni Honoree "Educator who made a Difference."

Michael Gladden Jr. (1899 to 1982)

Michael Gladden Jr

Michael Gladden, Jr. attended Morehouse College and later graduated from Bethune Cookman College. He was a successful entrepreneur that owned Gladden's General Store, a laundromat, operated a farm, and formed a black businessman association to help mentor local business owners. He was also a founding member of the Washington Shores Savings & Loan Bank in Orlando. He was married to the respected principal, Marie Gladden. 

Apopka Trailblazer: Entrepreneur and owner of Gladden's General Store in Apopka.

William Gladden, Sr. (1903 to 1985)

William Gladden Sr

William Gladden, Sr. was a pioneer and respected businessman in Apopka that owned the Apopka Shoe Hospital, located on Michael Gladden Blvd. He was also a school bus driver that transported students from Apopka to Hungerford High School and Phillis Wheatley. 

Apopka Trailblazer: Entrepreneur and owner of the Gladden Shoe Hospital.

William Gladden Jr., "Perrine Slim" (1932 to 2015)

William Gladden Jr. Perrine Slim

Perrine Slim was a community activist, orange grove caretaker, and horticulturist. He was an Apopka historian, author, freelance writer, funeral home attendant, and political advisor. He was a former police officer in Perrine, Florida, which garnered his nickname of "Perrine", his CB handle. He was the son of William and Bertha Gladden, Sr.  

Apopka Trailblazer: Author, community activist, and Apopka historian.

Johnny Lee "Dude" Griffin (1919 to 1990)

Johnny Lee _Dude_ Griffin

Johnny Lee "Dude" Griffin was the owner of The Harvesting Company. He managed crews of workers who traveled along the East coast from Florida to New York, harvesting seasonal crops. He used his company bus to host youth trips to Bethune Beach in New Smyrna. He also owned the famous Club GQ in Apopka. Blinded in the late 1940's from an industrial accident, Mr. Griffin did not waver from his pursuit to become a successful businessman.

Apopka Trailblazer: Entrepreneur that owned several businesses in Apopka.

Stephen Hooper (1839 to Unknown)

Stephen Hooper

Stephen Hooper was a successful landowner in the Rock Springs Apopka Area in Northwest Orange County. He was originally employed in the railroad construction industry in Central Florida. Stephen owned a vast amount of valuable property in Apopka. 

Apopka Trailblazer: It was uncommon for blacks to own property in the late 1800's however, Stephen Hooper owned a vast amount of property in Apopka. 

Jerry Lawson (1944 to 2019)

Jerry Lawson

Jerry Lawson was born in 1944 and raised in Apopka, Florida. He started singing at New Hope Baptist Church and participated in talent shows at Phillis Wheatley. Jerry was credited with popularizing acapella with the group The Persuasions. He recorded over 24 albums and had many hit songs such as The Persuasions Acapella, Man and "I'm Just a Mortal Man." In 2022, PBS broadcast station featured Jerry in a documentary about his life.

Apopka Trailblazer: Famous singer, producer, musical arranger, and performer.

Sarah Mead (1836 to 1910)

Sarah Mead. Document with signatures property.

Sarah was born in 1836 in South Carolina. She was sold into slavery to a plantation in Georgia and remained enslaved until the end of the Civil War. Sarah met her husband Lindsey Mead and settled in Apopka in an area that would be known as Mead's Bottom. Sarah introduced the Apopka area to early black settlers and helped them establish homesteads.

Apopka Trailblazer: Land owner and black pioneer in Apopka who helped many black families settle in the area.

Suzie W. Millsap (1929 to 2015)

Suzie W. Millsap

Suzie was born in Alabama. She attended Florida A&M University and was an Orange County Public School teacher at Zellwood Elementary. Suzie was a dedicated advocate for neighborhood awareness as it pertained to civic, social, academic, religious, and political issues. 

Apopka Trailblazer: Social justice advocate and well-respected educator.

George Oden (1862 to 1939)

George Oden. Quit Claim Deed.

George Oden was a dynamic citrus caretaker in the 1890's. He gained notoriety in the 1900s when he purchased a forty-acre citrus grove near the Marshall Lake chain of lakes that flow into Lake Apopka. A purchase of this magnitude was unusual for a person of color during this era. New Hope Missionary Baptist Church was built on land donated by George. He also owned a livery stable in Apopka. 

Apopka Trailblazer: Dynamic citrus caretaker and land owner.

Joseph Robard (1846 to 1934)

Joseph Robard

Joseph Delk was the son of slave owner William Delk in Apopka. Joseph changed his name to "get away from the name of my unnatural father." Joseph was the half brother of Anthony Frazier - they shared the same mother. Robard was a farmer and settled in the Sorrento area. He was a poet and early farmer.

Apopka Trailblazer: Poet and early farmer in the Apopka area.

Minnie Mae Robinson (1922 to 2007)

Minnie Mae Robinson. Her Book Cover.

Minnie Mae Robinson had a love for literacy; she learned to read at the age of 69 after becoming a member of the G.R.O.W.S. Literacy group in Apopka. The knowledge that Minnie Mae acquired from the Literacy group helped her write her first book, "Minnie Mae: My Story."

Apopka Trailblazer: Learned to read at 69 and was a published author by the age of 74.

Reverend Zephaniah Turk (1885 to 1967)

Reverend Zephaniah Turk

In 1937, Reverend Turk founded Pleasant View Baptist Church with Bell Williams, J. Miller, R. Foster, and Sam Brown. Reverend Turk served as the pastor of both Pleasant View Baptist Church in Apopka and Isleworth MBC of Windermere until 1959.

Apopka Trailblazer: Community advocate and faith leader.

Clara Davis Warren (1925 to 1987)

Clara Davis Warren

Clara Davis Warren founded the Central Florida Food Bank in 1978. The food bank was organized in partnership with the Florida Farmworkers Association. She was honored with the "Service to Mankind" award for her efforts. Clara's mother, Julia Davis, was a founder of St. Elizabeth Holiness Church in Apopka.

Apopka Trailblazer: Community leader and founder of the Central Florida Food Bank.

Albert "Po Boy" Williams (1920 to 2002)

Albert _Po Boy_ Williams

Albert Williams was a foliage manager, avid golfer, and community leader. Mr. Williams was a member of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Apopka where he was the Minister of Music. Mr. Williams was a man of impeccable style and worked many years for Fern City Cleaners.

Apopka Trailblazer: A dapper community leader and avid golfer.

Epsie Williams (1885 to 1953)

Epsie Williams

Epsie Williams was born in a community called Martel in Ocala and moved to Clarcona, Florida. She was one of several well-known black midwives in the Apopka area. She is the grandmother of the first black City of Apopka Commissioner, Alonzo Williams Jr.

Apopka Trailblazer: Well-known midwife that helped deliver many babies in the Apopka area.

Marvin Clyde Zanders (1934 to 2010)

Marvin Clyde Zanders

Marvin C. Zanders was a well-respected businessman,  humanitarian, social activist, philanthropist and leader in the Apopka area. He attended Hungerford High School in Eatonville, Florida and graduated from New Brunswick High School in New Jersey. Marvin served in the United States Army and studied mortuary science at the New York School of Embalming and Restorative Arts. His humanitarian efforts served countless families in Central Florida for over fifty years. In his funeral business he was known as "The People's Choice." 

Apopka Trailblazer: Well-respected businessman, humanitarian, philanthropist and leader.


The Apopka Historical Society would like to thank Dr. Shakenya Harris-Jackson for her dedication to this project, and for the hours of research collected and compiled by the Apopka Youth Council.

Our special thanks to the Mayor of Apopka, Bryan Nelson, and to the Apopka City Council members for recognizing the importance of contributions made in the Apopka community by early black settlers and for supporting this publication. Our elected officials are instrumental in preserving and investing in our city’s rich history.

We are also honored to recognize our own valued historian, Ms. Francina Boykin. She is at the forefront of African American history in Northwest Orange County and has provided some of the references and oral histories for many of the “trailblazers” included in this publication.

The Apopka Historical Society believes that collaborations like this help to educate our community members and visitors about the importance of our founding families and to help embrace and celebrate the diversity that has made our city what it is today.

“The past is our heritage, the present is our responsibility and the future is our challenge.”