Many Americans will recognize this coming Monday, October 13, as a holiday honoring Christopher Columbus. Thanks to NPCA supporters, the citizens of Florida will also take this day to recognize an unsung hero who made one of our national parks possible: Lancelot Jones.
Few people know the amazing story of Lancelot Jones and his role in the creation of Biscayne National Park. Born on a sailboat in the middle of Biscayne Bay in 1898, Lancelot lived nearly all of his 99 years on the tiny island of Porgy Key. There, he weathered hurricanes and two world wars. He and his brother, Arthur, built on their father’s pioneer venture in citrus production to become the largest independent supplier of key limes in the country. When limes imported from Mexico eventually overtook the market, Lancelot launched a fishing guide business, catering to wealthy elites seeking warmer climates and elusive game fish. Five presidents, countless senators and dignitaries, and industry leaders such as Harvey Firestone and Mark Honeywell sought out Lancelot to guide them through the beautiful chain of islands in southern Biscayne Bay.
An educated man born to an African-American father and Bahamian-American mother, Lancelot valued the natural beauty of the bay over profit. Under pressure to sell his land for a development dreamed up as the next Miami Beach, Lancelot chose instead to sell his island properties to the National Park Service to ensure their protection, allowing future generations to explore and enjoy this treasured area in perpetuity. This land allowed the National Park Service to designate Biscayne National Monument, which later became Biscayne National Park. Lancelot lived out all but the last two years of his life on Porgy Key, where he graciously greeted visitors and school groups and educated his guests about the important role sponges play in the crystal clear waters of the bay. The only payment he requested was key lime pie.
A humble and fascinating man, Lancelot Jones was featured in the Ken Burns documentary on national parks, America’s Best Idea. His story and that of his family is an American tale of grit, determination, and success. For this reason, NPCA urban youth advocates have been working with Florida state representatives to recognize Lancelot Jones’ contribution to society and share his story. You can celebrate Lancelot Jones Day this Monday by learning more about this fascinating man and the marine wonders he loved so much.
A one-time designation, NPCA and its advocates will continue to work to pass resolutions in both the state Senate and House so this recognition will take place each year. To help with this effort, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954.961.1280, ext. 404.
About the author
Jacqueline Crucet Associate Director, National Partnerships, Sun Coast
The Sun Coast Outreach Manager, Jackie works on community engagement initiatives, Florida Bay preservation, youth advocacy, and grants implementation and management.