April 26, 2009 - The Lake City Reporter

By H. Morris Williams

A lot of Columbia County ladies, including some of the wealthiest, gave birth to their babies at home until Lake Shore Hospital opened in the 1930's.

Midwives—women who assisted women in childbirth—attended many of these home deliveries, and typically, physicians were called in only if there was trouble with the delivery.

Rebecca Singleton was one of these early midwives, and in her 50 years as a midwife, she delivered over 500 babies. She, like many of these midwives, was black, and they helped deliver both back and white babies.

She, along with dozens of other black women, learned her midwife skills by helping older midwives and at seminars offered at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville.

Rebecca stayed busy delivering other people's babies, but she also took time to have a baby of her own, a fine daughter she named Mildred who grew up to become an educator.

Mildred Singleton Bennett was no ordinary educator. She studied at the doctoral level at Columbia University, then came home and became a legend in local black education.

A superb teacher from her first day, Mildred then became an outstanding principal at the Fort White Bethlehem School, altogether serving our school system for 38 years.

Mildred is now deceased but her memory lives on thanks to an annual scholarship at FWHS named in her honor, a scholarship started by some of her former students whose lives she had helped.

Like Mother, like daughter. One a midwife, the other an educator, and both leaving their good marks on families all over our county.


*1988: Harvey Campbell resigned from the Lake City Reporter after eight years as sports editor. He is now the Tourist Development Director.

*1979: Skip Johns (CHS 1971) and the Travelers of Lake City made history by becoming the first Florida Blue Grass Band to play on the Grand Ole Opry.

*1971: The Lake City Jaycees named Summers Elementary teacher Barbara Thomas the county's Outstanding Young Educator. This prompted Congressman Don Fuqua to write, "Congratulations, Barbara! You can be proud of this wonderful honor and I am sure your pupils are proud, and grateful too, for such a fine teacher."

*1999: These outstanding teachers retired from our school system: M.O. Becnel, Bill Colvin, Sandra Holloway, Mervin Jones, John Justice, Carolyn May, and Cathy Persons.

*1856: The First Presbyterian Church of Lake City was originally organized on May 30, 1856, as the First Presbyterian Church of Alligator, East Florida, with eight members.

*2007: The Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy dedicated a headstone for Private Jon (Jonathan) R. Williams of the 4th Georgia Regiment Cavalry, Co. K, at the Prospect Primitive Baptist Church on CR 135 (Woodpecker Route) in Hamilton County.

*1930: A small truck and a school bus loaded with children collided on the last day of school at Mason City. A somber notation written on the photograph of the wreck said, "Some died, more may die from injuries. Some may be crippled for life."

*1984: The Columbia County Quarterback Club and CHS dedicated a weight training facility on the CHS campus. At that time, David Ellis was CHS principal, Bob Simmons was CHS head football coach and athletic director, and John Robertson was president of the Quarterback Club.

*1985: The Columbia Aquatic Complex was dedicated. Three officials who spoke were Supt. Silas Pittman, Mayor Gerald Witt, and Aquatic Committee Representative, Becky Todd.

*1969: Hazel Truluck, now principal of Fort White Elementary School, was secretary and also valedictorian of the last senior class to graduate from the "old" FWHS.


*Slogan of Michael Patrick Studios at 313 North Marion: If your hair is not becoming to you, maybe you should be coming to me."

*Motto of Howard's Septic Tank Service: "Nobody sticks their nose in our business."

*Message on the First Baptist Church marquee: "We're not Dairy Queen but you'll love our Sundays!"


When one of our coaches retired many years ago, a person doing the "roast" quoted General Douglas MacArthur's saying, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away, then jokingly paraphrased it, "Old gym teachers never die, they just smell that way." square

H. Morris Williams is a local historian and long-time Columbia County resident.