Thanks to the efforts of Jackie Crucet, The Mahogany Youth, Vice Mayor Stephen Shelley and Senator Dwight Bullard, an unsung Florida pioneer’s legacy, Sir Lancelot Jones, was officially honored during a Special Council Presentation on September 22, 2014. Mrs. Crucet, mentors from The Mahogany Youth, Vice Mayor Stephen Shelley, Florida State Senator Dwight Bullard, Biscayne National Park Rangers and friends of the late Mr. Jones were on hand to celebrate the official designation by the State of Florida of Oct 13, 2014 as being “Lancelot Jones Day.”
It was under the tutelage of National Parks Conservation Association Program Analyst Jackie Crucet and the enthusiasm she fostered within the members of the child advocacy group, The Mahogany Youth, with whom she mentors, that the idea to honor Lancelot Jones was born.
“It was during the logistical and planning phases for the National Parks Trolley Project, in which Jackie Crucet was intimately involved, that Ms. Crucet made me aware of Lancelot Jones’ story and his indelible connection to Biscayne National Park,” said Vice Mayor Shelley. “After hearing the story and how moved the kids and mentors over at The Mahogany Youth were to make his story known, I committed to introduce the Mahogany Youth to our State Legislators and help advocate to make Lancelot Jones Day a reality.
Inspired by the Mahogany Youth, Senator Bullard successfully pushed Senate Bill 1158 through the Florida Senate resulting in the designation of October 13, 2014 as “Lancelot Jones Day” in the State of Florida.
Lancelot Jones, so named by his father as a nod to the nobility of the legendary Knights of the Round Table, was born into an African-American pioneer family that made its home on the southern keys in what is now Biscayne National Park. Born into slavery, Lancelot’s father, Israel Jones, beat incredible odds both societally and economically to become a successful landowner and farmer. The Jones family thrived for almost a century on that land growing and exporting pineapples and key limes.
In the 1940s and 50s, Lancelot was hired as a fishing guide, often for the rich and famous which included three American presidents (Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.) By the 1960s, developers were eager to acquire the Jones’ land and Lancelot was offered a premium price to relinquish it. Unflappable, Mr. Jones never wavered in his belief that the land was a gift and that it should be preserved for future generations, so he sold all 277 acres to the National Park Service for well below market value and today it stands as the most pristine, beautiful section of Biscayne National Park. Without Lancelot Jones, Biscayne National Park would likely not exist today and instead the pristine barrier islands would be occupied by high rise condos and commercial development.
Representative Holly Raschein and Senator Dwight Bullard have committed to sponsor continuing resolutions in both the Florida House and Senate in 2015 with the hope of making Lancelot Jones Day a permanent re-occurring annual honor in the State of Florida.