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State News

Florida's Knight In Shining Armor May Get Holiday

This brought to you, in part, by Florida's very own knight in shining armor—Sir Lancelot Jones.
Bruce Tuten via Flickr
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Florida lawmakers appear to be on the verge of creating a new holiday.  The proposal honoring Sir Lancelot Jones passed its final Senate committee Monday.

“South Florida has the distinction of being one of the few regions in the United States that has two national parks,” Sen. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) said at a committee hearing back in March.  The state has one of those two parks thanks to a man named Sir Lancelot Jones.

John Nordt is an orthopedic surgeon, but he’s also an authority on Jones.  He knew him personally, and he’s been lecturing about him for over a decade.  Nordt explains the Jones family’s landlord had a thing for Camelot, and that led to the unique name.  Sir Lancelot was actually the second son—his older brother’s name was King Arthur. 

Nordt describes Lancelot as a kind of sage.

“They used to call him the Philosopher of Porgy Key,” he says, “or the Philosopher of Caesar’s Creek, and he would hold court down there and people would come down and visit.”

Jones was born in 1898 on a boat in Biscayne Bay.   His father worked as lighthouse attendant and caretaker for a homestead on Key Biscayne and his mother served as a cook.  The family farmed pineapples and key limes, and eventually bought Porgy Key and Totten Key. 

In addition to learning how to farm, Jones grew up bone fishing.  He made a bit of a name for himself as a guide, taking out a number of U.S. presidents from Harding to Nixon.

“He was kind of a very interesting guy because he was a throwback to the 19th century, and he almost lived to the 21st century,” Nordt says.  “He was incredibly eloquent, college educated, very bright man, and he really was ahead of his time ecologically because he knew about sponges, and fish and all that because he lived down there.”

But in the 1960s a number of developers came up with projects in the Biscayne Bay area.

“A guy named E.K. Ludwig wanted to build an oil refinery over where Turkey Point is now,” Nordt recalls.  “They were going to dig big channels in and bring in oil tankers.  And I don’t have to say how bad that would’ve been, we know that now, but a lot of people got up and spoke against it strongly and they ended up making a national monument out of it, and eventually a national park.”

A chunk of that park—it’s known today as Biscayne National Park—comes from Sir Lancelot Jones.  In 1970, he and his daughter in law sold the family’s 277 acres of land to the National Parks Service. 

“Because of his family’s giving of the 200-plus acres of that farm to the National Parks Service, we now have what we know as Biscayne National Park for all of us to enjoy, and so this would simply designate that second Monday in October as Sir Lancelot Jones day,” Sen. Bullard says.

The holiday is limited to Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, but it’s moving forward.  Bullard’s measure passed its final committee Monday and it’s now headed to the senate floor.  The companion bill in the House has made it to the floor as well.