Every now and then, you meet someone who creates such an impression on you that you realize you will never forget that person. Floyd Phillips is one such individual. He has a presence that brings light into the room, an outstanding passion for his work and cultural legacy, and an unforgettable, contagious laugh. You’ll find him at the Lincolnville Museum, working tirelessly to make the museum and St. Augustine a better place.
Floyd was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1942, growing up during the height of segregation. As a young man, he was a National Merit Scholar, “destined to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta,” he relates, but “at the eleventh hour,” he was told his birthdate preceded the cutoff date, and therefore, could not attend. After enduring detours in his career path, he pursued teaching, specializing in Biology. Eventually an opportunity arose with Allstate Insurance Company. He loved teaching, however, and “once a teacher, always a teacher.” Today, as President of the Friends of Lincolnville, he (along with his wife Gayle) teaches throngs of individuals from all over the world about African American history in St. Johns County, where Floyd has lived since 1998.
Friends of Lincolnville consists of a group of individuals, all possessing a keen interest in history, who support and manage the museum. Floyd was called in five years ago as a consultant, after which he was invited to sit on the board. Approximately six months later the then President and founder, Otis Mason, indicated he was considering retiring. Soon Floyd was unanimously voted in as the new President. He loves his work; and yet, he says, “this has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.”
Lincolnville Museum hosts a program called The Living Legends, which honors individuals who have made great contributions to St. Johns County’s historical significance – like Otis Mason, Janie Price, and Sandra Parks. The individuals selected are local treasures for all of us to find. “Anybody who doesn’t get a special feeling from interacting with people like this,” says Floyd, “I don’t know where their heart is.”
Moving forward, one of the organization’s goals is to get the museum accredited. The museum features jazz programs, live theatre, lectures, camps for children, even programs for senior citizens. “We want to bring seniors into the museum, provide refreshments, let them talk,” says Floyd. “We also do a lot for youngsters because we feel it’s so important.”
He is working with the school district, bringing in an Educational Specialist who will develop programming that can be brought to local schools. “There’s not another museum in the city that does what we do. And we always need volunteers. A new set of eyes, experiences, even resources. We just want to make this community the best that it can possibly be.”
Learn more about Floyd’s work a the Lincolnville Museum by visiting www.lincolnvillemuseum.org. Photography by Kate Gardiner.