Remembering John “Gus” Plummer, a ‘Distinguished Gentleman’

Florida State Rep. John "Gus"Plummer R-Miami
Florida State Rep. John “Gus”Plummer R-Miami

Imagine a determined black man running for political office who plays off a well-known political name and somehow against all odds wins election. No, we’re not taking about The Distinguished Gentleman, the movie starring Eddie Murphy.

On November 4, 1980, it happened in real life. John “Gus” Plummer became  Florida’s first Republican African American .

Plummer was a former school bus driver in Miami who got involved in politics. He ran as a Republican, hoping to represent a Miami district in the  Florida Legislature. He was a political unknown in a largely black Democratic district, but Plummer had one thing going for him — his last name. It was the same as that of a prominent white Miami-Dade County family.

Plummer ran a stealth campaign. He refused interviews and didn’t use or allow his photo to be taken. He did capitalize on his name. His campaign slogan: “The family name Plummer speaks for itself.” And it did, at least for one term.

Two years later, Plummer the incumbent lost his bid for re-election.

Source: Black Republicans: New Faces in By John Kennedy Sun Sentinel July 27, 1998

 Photo Credit: Courtesy of Florida Archives

Red Letter Date: Redistricting Propels Blacks to Congress





On November 3, 1992, three black politicians are elected to Congress from Florida in newly drawn minority majority political districts. Democrats Corrine Brown from Jacksonville, Alcee Hastings of Miramar and Carrie Meek of Miami  became the first blacks elected to Congress since Reconstruction.


Of the three, only Hastings is still in the Congress. Meek retired, which opened the door for her son, Kendrick Meek, to run and win the seat.


Brown  lost her bid for re-election in the 2016 primary, ending a 24-year career amid a federal indictment and changes to the longtime boundaries of her district.


Source: The New York Times The 1992 Elections The New Congress; Democrats Promise Quick Actions on a Clinton Plan by Adam Clymer Nov. 5, 1992

Photo Credits: U.S. House of Representatives, Portrait Photos

Red Letter Date: Black Republicans Win Big, Serve Briefly


November 2, 2010 was a big day for black Republicans.


In the year of the Tea Party, Allen West was perhaps the movement’s biggest star. He took on a Democratic incumbent and won, becoming the first black Republican elected to Congress from Florida since Reconstruction.

In that same election cycle, Jennifer Carroll, a black state Representative, won the job of Lieutenant Governor, a first for a black politician. She ran with Republican gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott, a multi-millionaire and Tea Party favorite.

Both flamed out early in what could have been extended political careers.


West only served one term in Congress. He sought re-election in what he thought was a more favorable district but lost in a close race to Democrat Patrick Murphy.

Carroll resigned four months after the election when law enforcement officials questioned her about ties to a purported veterans charity organization at the center of a multi-state racketeering probe.

No charges were filed against Carroll, and two years later she agreed to pay a $1,000 fine for failing to accurately report income she received from the internet cafe industry before the 2010 election.




Red Letter Date: Joseph Hatchett Makes History in the South

Justice Joseph W. Hatchett
Justice Joseph W. Hatchett

Joseph W. Hatchett is a man of many “firsts.” This one celebrates an accomplishment no black man before him in the South had ever accomplished.

On November 2, 1976, then Florida Supreme Court Justice Hatchett ran a successful campaign to win election and keep his seat on the bench. Gov. Reuben Askew had appointed Hatchett to state Supreme Court in 1975.

The fact that Hatchett became the first African American to run and win a statewide campaign in Florida is remarkable. The fact that he was also the first in the South to accomplishment is extraordinary. Unfortunately, Hatchett remains the only African American in Florida to ever run and win a statewide race.

Photo Credit: State of Florida Archives, Florida Memory

Welcome to My Blog


By Douglas C. Lyons

I am at a point in my life where I can relate to Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston, if you don’t know by now, was a legendary author, anthropologist, playwright  and journalist and an icon of the Harlem Renaissance. She loved black people in the South, particularly in the Sunshine State. She lived an extraordinary life.

In no way am I comparing my meager talents to hers — that’s not my point here. It’s the age-thing that is gnawing at me. Growing older may be a blessing, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

In Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd —perhaps the best biography on Ms. Hurston — the author describes Ms. Hurston’s views as  the famed writer approached the twilight of her distinguished life.

“When I get old, and my joints and bones tell me about it,” she once said. “I can write for myself, if for no one else, and read slowly and carefully the mysticism of the East, and re-read Spinoza with love and care. All the while my days can be a succession of coffee cups.”

I’ve spent most of my adult life writing for newspapers and magazines, including EBONY, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Florida is now the place I call home. I didn’t expect to stay in the Sunshine State, given all the weirdness that comes with the abundance of diversity, sunshine and promise.

Florida always promises. It’s part of the state’s charm and bluster. What I found fascinating is the state’s unique history, particularly involving its black citizens.

For example, the first black man to set foot on the peninsula was not a servant, but a conqueror who owned slaves. The land itself became a haven for runaway slaves, long before the Underground Railroad was even recognized. And don’t think that black Floridians simply wilted in the face of harsh Jim Crow laws.

Folk do things differently in Florida. The state’s rich history shows us that. It took a while for me to appreciate what many generations of black Floridians already know. I’m just glad I have the chance to explore and experience it.

Is age anything but a number? Or does getting old set limits on boundless imagination?  I’d like to think of myself as someone who will pursue what I love as long as I live. There are still, unfortunately, moments of doubt. As a longtime writer and budding blogger, I am eager to relate to Ms. Hurston’s words.