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December 29, 2022

Trouble and Turmoil: Life in Tallahassee, Florida in the 1950s

These pictures were taken by Benjamin L. ‘Red’ Kerce, a  Tallahassee photographer. Born in Alachua County in 1911, Kerce worked for Bradford County Telegraph in Starke before moving to Tallahassee in 1944. By the time Benjamin L. ‘Red’ Kerce died from a heart attack at just 53 during a business trip to Orlando, he’d risen to the rank of director of press relations for the Florida Highway Patrol.

A native of Union County, Red Kerce had lived in Tallahassee for about 20 years, working as a writer and photographer for the Florida Times-Union, and as a correspondent for several out-of-state dailies. He was chief of the Brevard County bureau of the Orlando Sentinel-Star for several years, with headquarters in Titusville. He was also the feature editor for the Tallahassee Democrat, covered the legislature for the Associated Press and was a stringer for Life Magazine.

Couple at the Garden of Eden near Bristol, Florida, 1953.

Over 800 of Red Kerce's photographs of Tallahassee and the surrounding area are housed at the Florida State Archives. They give us a snapshot of the times, not least of all how the officials of law and order were on friendly terms with the Klu Klux Klan. One image even saw Red Kerce's wife sharing niceties with the robed white supremacy group.

Take a look back at life in Tallahassee, Florida in the 1950s through these 26 photographs taken by Red Kerce:

Kerce brothers with arrowheads and spear points, 1950.

Florida State University Flying High Circus performers dressed as clowns Red, 1950.

Couple at the Garden of Eden near Bristol, Florida, 1953.

Joe Kerce reading sign marking the “birthplace of Adam” in the Garden of Eden, 1953.

Duke and Duchess of Windsor visiting in Tallahassee, 1953.

Lamar Bledsoe and others being served at a dinner party, 1953.

Florida Supreme Court Justices, 1954.

Senators’ wives, 1954.

Highway patrol cars in the Tampa Gasparilla parade, 1954.

Pontiac prize car for Florida Driver Education Rodeo,  1954.

Learning to can at a cooking class, 1954.

Inmates in the cafeteria at mealtime, 1954.

Clark children with deer and turkey from a successful hunt, 1955.

4 H club booth at the North Florida Fair, 1955.

Children next to ice-covered fence, 1955.

Leon County Sheriff Department’s exhibit on moonshine, 1955.

Davis boys with fish, 1955.

Conductor speaking with children in front of a stopped train, 1955.

Kay Cromartie modeling bathing suits, 1955.

Dead lake with cypress knees, 1955.

Dennis Christie and salesman at a Tallahassee business, 1955.

Ku Klux Klan members with flags, 1956.

Crowd and Ku Klux Klan member at one of the Klan rallies, 1956.

Ku Klux Klan officers in costume talking with the photographer’s wife Sarah Catherine Kerce, 1956.

Cross burning by the Ku Klux Klan, in protest of a suspected communist, 1956.

Ku Klux Klan in their cars and talking with men standing in the road, 1956.

(via Flashbak)


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