The Original Pillars

Our unique art pieces are more than decoration. They feature some of our area’s first Pillars: citizens who generously gave their time and efforts to make a difference in our community and abroad.

Through our partnership with Jacksonville Historical Society, we were able to secure portraits of Jacksonville’s earliest everyday heroes.

Learn more about the faces in our portraits below.

Ninah May Holden Cummer

Ninah May Holden Cummer came to Jacksonville in 1896 with her husband, Arthur Cummer, whose father was a Michigan lumber baron. The Cummers built a Tudor-style home on Riverside Avenue in 1902 and their drawing room is now a feature of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Ninah had an extensive art collection, which is the basis for the Cummer Museum. She was instrumental in contracting the Olmsted Brothers landscape architectural firm in 1922 to create the design for Memorial Park.

Joseph E. Lee

Joseph E. Lee was a municipal judge from 1887 to 1889, the first African American to practice law in Jacksonville having been admitted to the Florida Bar in 1873, and a collector of customs and internal revenue. Lee was also a member of the Florida House of Representatives (1875-1880) and the Florida Senate (1881-1882) and played an important role in the relief effort after the Great Fire of 1901.

May Mann Jennings

May Mann Jennings moved to Jacksonville with her husband, Gov. William Jennings, when his term ended in 1905. A crusader for women’s suffrage, historic preservation, and saving the Everglades, she was named one of the “50 Most Important Floridians of the 20th Century.” She was the founder of the League of Women Voters of Florida and campaigned for prohibition, better treatment of children, for the rights of prisoners, education reforms and funding, improvements in public welfare, historic preservation, conservation and highway beautification. Jennings was known as the “Mother of Florida Forestry” for her part in promoting and securing the legislative act that created the Florida State Board of Forestry.

Charlie "Hoss" Singleton

Charlie “Hoss” Singleton was a songwriter for the stars, penning the lyrics to Spanish Eyes and Strangers in the Night. He wrote for Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. He was a 1935 graduate of Stanton High School, the first school established for the African American community in the 1860s.

J.E.T. Bowden and the Great Fire of 1901

J.E.T. Bowden was mayor of Jacksonville at the time of the Great Fire of 1901 and served the city until he lost his re-election bid in 1917. Bowden was a big booster of the entertainment industry, campaigning movie companies to take up year-round residence in the city and urging bankers to provide loans to the producers. The rowdiness of the film crews disrupted city life, enraging the citizenry, and the film industry moved to the West Coast.

Eartha White and Mary McLeod Bethune

The 13th child of a former slave, Eartha M.M. White, left, devoted her life to helping the needy and was one of Jacksonville’s most extraordinary women of all time. She was a teacher, an operatic soprano, and a political activist. Right, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ph.D., was a lifelong activist for gender and racial equality, an educator, philanthropist and civil rights leader. She built schools and hospitals, held voter registration drives for Black women in 1920, led anti-lynching campaigns, and advised the Roosevelt Administration on minority affairs.

James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson has most recently been in the public eye as the author of the lyrics to what is known as the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” Born in 1871 in Jacksonville, Johnson established his reputation as a writer during the Harlem Renaissance (1891-1938) for his poems, novels and anthologies. A civil rights activist, he was the first African American to be chosen as executive secretary in 1920 for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was also the first African American professor to be hired at New York University in 1934.

"Kiss of Life" Pulitzer Prize Photograph of The Everyday Hero

“Kiss of Life” became a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by Florida Times-Union newspaper photographer Rocco Morabito in 1967. Happening upon the scene of a stricken JEA lineman, Morabito called for help, then grabbed the shot, which appeared in newspapers around the world. The “Kiss of Life” was just that and the lineman survived.

Thank You

We are grateful for the staff at the Jacksonville Historical Society for providing photos and history on some of our area’s honorable citizens. If you would like to learn more about our city’s past or want to join, visit https://www.jaxhistory.org/

A Call for Artists

The Pillars Club would like to commission art for future location expansions. If you are an artist, please contact us to learn more.