A Groundbreaking Politician
Elmore Bryant was born in 1934 in Jackson County, Florida, and grew up in the West End Community. He spent most of his childhood on his grandparent’s farm. His favorite memories at the farm were raising hogs, making cane sugar syrup, and harvesting “good old sweet potatoes.”
“[The sweet potatoes] would have so much sugar, and you could see the sugar runoff.”Elmore Bryant
Bryant’s family stored layers of salted hog meat in barrels to keep it fresh for the community. Bryant recalls how his uncles taught him how to make cane sugar syrup and helped on the farm alongside his grandparents. Bryant loved to “get those [sweet] potatoes off the ground and bring them in the house” to harvest. He always washed the sweet potatoes, coated them with oil, and put them in the fireplace until they were ready to eat.
A Politician’s Life Work
Bryant attended the Jackson County Training School in Marianna and moved to St. Augustine for college. After graduating college, Bryant moved back to Jackson County. He wanted to make positive changes in his community through civil rights and public service work.
For over twenty years, Bryant served as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). To change the voting system, Bryant sued the city of Marianna, Jackson County, and the school board and won the lawsuit. After the lawsuit, Bryant was appointed as a city commissioner. Then, in 1985, Bryant was appointed and served as the first Black mayor in Marianna. As the mayor, he successfully kept Florida Public Utilities in Marianna, established a Winn Dixie, which increased employment and created a large economic hub, and brought a Federal Correctional Institution to Marianna. He also led a campaign to hire Black police officers and increased funding for city employees.
Chipola Rainbow Home Builders
“[After many years] my father was able to buy a house and fix it up. And it was our house. We didn’t rent anymore. I’ll never forget that.”Elmore Bryant
Once his term ended as mayor, Bryant founded the Chipola Rainbow Home Builders, an affordable housing nonprofit organization. Bryant’s motivation to create this organization came from growing up “in a bad housing situation” living in a shotgun rental home. He recalls, “[After many years] my father was able to buy a house and fix it up. And it was our house. We didn’t rent anymore. I’ll never forget that.” With grant assistance, waived city fees, and donations, Chipola Rainbow Home Builders built thirty-six new homes and renovated nineteen homes which were all owned by Black women. He also operated the only Black-owned service station in Marianna for fifty years.
A Teacher and Community Advocate
Bryant’s dedication to the youth in the community is apparent. He taught public school, worked at the Dozier School for Boys, and coached baseball, football, and basketball at St. Paul’s High School and the Jackson County Training School. He was the first Black basketball coach in Jackson County. At the Dozier School, Bryant served as a dropout prevention teacher. He taught young boys how to read and was twice named teacher of the year. To this day, his former students refer to him as “coach” when they see him.
“[Future generations can succeed when they] organize, have one spokesman, and come together with an idea.”Elmore Bryant
Currently, Elmore Bryant lives in West End and hopes to share his life stories with future generations. He believes that future generations can succeed when they “organize, have one spokesman, and come together with an idea.” Also, he encourages individuals to “have legal advice” when fighting for civil rights, since this proved successful with his lawsuit in Jackson County. To sustain the future of Jackson County, Bryant believes that these steps are necessary moving forward.