Avon Park City Council Throws Out All Black Votes in 1951 Election

African American voters at a Georgia “colored precinct” in 1946. From: Georgia State Library

The good old boy system of Avon Park was shaken to its core in 1949. That September, five out of six incumbents were voted out of office. Among the newly-elected was young Wiley Sauls, who was just 21.

The story gathered widespread media attention that announced he was the youngest mayor in America. Sauls, a native of Avon Park, graduated from Avon Park High School in 1946 and then went to law school at the University of Florida.

The mayoral election of 1949 was hotly contested, with five candidates throwing their hats in the ring. In addition to Sauls, three other candidates (C. L. Armstrong, J. L. Elder, and Bert Turner) were running against incumbent mayor O. C. Wilkes.

In setting the stage, remember mid-century Central Florida’s racial climate. Avon Park was rather typical of the Jim Crow South, segregated by law, including a strict color line for housing. The white population lived in the northern part of the city, and all voted in Precinct 1. A second precinct served the colored “quarters” of the city’s southern section.

1950 Census Map of Avon Park

Avon Park’s population was measured at 4,612 in the 1950 Census, with 72% being white. Blacks, long intimidated to stay away from the polls, were starting to have more significance in elections but still proportionally had a turnout of about 40% less than whites.

Although no candidate received a majority vote in the five-way race, the incumbent mayor dominated the others in the white precinct with 397 votes; his closest competitor (Armstrong) only had 242. The young legal scholar, Sauls, was tied for third with 237.

Just when it seemed like Wilkes would be re-elected, the black precinct’s tallies rolled in. The 21-year-old captured a whopping 76% of the black vote (225 of 295), and Wilkes only received 20 from the precinct. Sauls zoomed past Wilkes and into the mayor’s seat 462 to 444.

Fast forward to the 1951 election. O. C. Wilkes was determined to reclaim his mayorship over the youngster. A third candidate, O. K. McClure, would never be a real factor in the race.

That year was especially notable for the black electorate. For the first time, the black precinct was staffed and managed by its citizens. The overseeing inspector, W. J. Robinson, and the precinct’s clerks were all black. They finally had exclusive supervision of their own voting district.

When the white precinct reported its results, Wilkes had a narrow eight-vote lead over Sauls of 522 votes to 514. However, the black turnout came out in force and, once again, left no doubt about their preference. Of the 397 votes from the black precinct, an astounding 92.5% went to Sauls.

Wilkes was not amused. Nor was a significant portion of the white population. For the second election in a row, the black voters had overruled the desires of the white constituency. In addition to the mayor race, two new city councilmen (Mannin Kirkland and J. B. Sparks) were swept into office after trailing in the white precinct thanks to the black vote.

The City Council met on September 15th, four days after the election, and heard Wilkes’ protest. He insisted that there were voter irregularities in the black precinct and that the council should take action to correct the injustice and install him as mayor. After looking at the evidence, the council decided there was insufficient evidence and sustained the popular vote.

Undeterred, Wilkes started lobbying local influencers. He compelled the council to convene a special session on September 25th. Wilkes charged that Precinct 2 had not returned all of its unused (blank) ballots after the election, and therefore that called into question all votes cast there.

This time around (based on Wilke’s highly questionable logic), the council voted 3–1 (one abstained) to throw out the ballots of the entire black precinct. Immediately, O. C. Wilkes began acting as the town’s mayor, and councilmen Kirkland and Sparks were replaced by E. W. Gough and Oscar Wolff.

As you can imagine, the whole city was in disarray, and no one could figure out what was going on or who was in charge. The Wilkes administration began to make changes to the city staff, hiring loyalists and firing those in the Sauls camp. Two police offers were assigned to stand guard at the front of City Hall in a military-esque showing of the coup d’etat. Everyone was confused.

Barnett Bank made its position known; they wanted no part in the drama. They refused to honor the city’s checks until the courts sorted out the mess!

The political melee quickly gained statewide headlines and hit the Associated Press wire. It dragged on for almost three months. While the judicial system continued to side with Sauls and insisted the will of the people be upheld, Wilkes and company would not give up the fight.

Attorney Keith Collyer was hired by duly-elected mayor Wiley Sauls and the other two would-be councilmen, Kirkland and Sparks. Collyer contended this authority to the council would permit them to perpetuate themselves into office on a mere claim of irregularities.

Circuit Court Judge Don Register quickly agreed, stating that the council had no authority to change election results and ordered them to reinstate the rightful winners. He stated the city could not “usurp the judicial function by declaring all ballots cast in polling place number two to be void.”

When the shadow government refused to comply, Judge Register called them to appear on contempt of court charges in a Wauchula courtroom.

“Mr. Pardee (Avon Park city attorney) assured me that you gentlemen will meet tonight and carry out the instructions of the court.,” said Judge Register with a soft-spoken demeanor and a knowing smile, “This court has no desire to adjudge anyone with contempt of court — unless it is necessary.”

Council President Gough and the other councilmen facing charges hastily assured the judge that they would meet that night to reverse their action.

However, refusing to go easily, the appeals continued through October and into November. In addition to the charge that not all unused ballots were returned, Wilkes’ attorney S. C. Pardee, Sr., added that black inspector W. J. Robinson had assisted voters in filling out their ballots.

The election challenge made its way to the Florida Supreme Court, which made its final decision on November 20, 1951. The high court agreed with the ruling of Judge Register and brought a conclusion to the matter.

Kirkland and Sparks were installed as city council members. Wiley Sauls, at age 23, became the youngest re-elected mayor in the country. And municipal governments were put on notice that they did not have the authority to invalidate an election to remain in power.

There you have it! Avon Park was the battleground of an early civil rights victory. One great +1 for democracy, with many more to come in the next two decades!

P.S. — Whatever happened to Sauls? Less than two years into his second term, he resigned from the mayor position and moved out of state.

34 responses to “Avon Park City Council Throws Out All Black Votes in 1951 Election”

  1. Thanks Mr. Jason Byrne for fearlessly giving out true history, in these days when some want to hide the truth of parts of history! “For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.” Psalm 11:7 (KJV)

  2. Excellent update! Wiley was my mother’s first cousin. We didn’t know much about him growing up in Lakeland but my own graduate work in Southern history brought me back home. Our shared family background helps shines light on what he achieved so young in Avon Park. Keep at it!

  3. History has repeated itself. Daniel Saul’s, Grandson of Wiley, owns the historical Brickell Building now. He works for the current mayors company Anderson Arms. There’s a photo of our current mayor when he was younger supporting the ousting of immigrants in Avon Park during the Tom Macklin administration. Avon Park is deeply divided both racially and politically. Garrett Anderson has managed to fill his family’s and his closest friends pockets full of money and free real estate. His sister Brittany McGuire is also a council member. Keeping it in the family I guess! Jim Crow laws are still strong in Avon Park!

    • https://youtu.be/3GbC55AAvyY?si=LOTTOlVIHGxSRPAj

      Start watching at the 54:00 minute mark. Berniece appears to be the only fiscally minded citizen on the council. Mayor and Brittanys evangelical preaching skills are hard at work justifying giving the Brickell Building away for free to Daniel Sauls. You may be wondering who underwrote the note for the construction loan? Why it was the Honorable John Shoop, the Mayor of Sebring and president of the First Southern Bank, who by coincidence sits on the Highlands County Economic Board with Garrett Anderson and Leah Sauls, wife of Daniel Sauls who owns the Brickell Building. How deep does the Rabbit hole really go? 🔥🔥Jason 🔥🔥

      • Dan Sauls didn’t get the Brickell Building for free. According to a title search, he paid $10.00 for it. Just wanted to clarify that he did pay something.

  4. Avon Park has a major Homeless problem. Council member Taylor, Breda Gray and Dr. Bobbi Powell tried to convert 3 homes in the Southside to help mothers and children who continue to struggle with homelessness and financial insecurities. Brittany McGuire and Garrett Anderson used their elected position for revenge because of a NAACP investigation that made inquires about the Anderson and McGuire owned Parkview prep academy that denied many potential enrollees and the lack of students of color. How has Avon Park progressed since 1951? One only has to tie the family names and past injustices to come to sound conclusions. I swear there is a major demonic entity in this town and puppets the city government. Everyone says the love God and are Christians but would God deny children and their mothers a safe place to sleep at night if God was the Mayor? We need someone to expose this wickedness. Avon Park is still one sided and Jim Crow entitlement is stronger than ever.

  5. Mayor Garrett Anderson brought in his buddy JT from Orlando who owns FAM at the airport. FAM wants 25k a month now. Was 10k. I would love to see an article about Avon Park corruption and how FDLE, FBI and the Attorney General in Tallahassee needs to come in and roast the City Council and Manager under Federal and State RICO statues. I grew up here. I remember the young future mayor photo in the paper and his sister Candice was protesting with him in the picture too when they were teenagers. It was in 2006 about the illegal migrant workers in the city. Please Mr. Bryne, can you do an article on AP and its nepotism and corruption?

      • A young Council Woman Brittany McGuire is in the photos below. This is a learned behavior bred by generations of hate, intolerance and ignorance. I grew up near the Anderson family and they have always been racist and bigoted. Shameful and does not reflect well on the City as a whole. Wash off your hate with the blood of Jesus Christ.

    • In 2023, Brittany McGuire and Garrett Anderson throw out generational African American residents out of their neighborhood and block off street access for a 326 unit lakefront development with a starting price of $379,000. Drama starts at 55:20 minute mark. Taylor once again called them out for the homeless shelter scandal. Keep watching, evil ensues. I mean if this isn’t racist, I don’t know what is. Flip flopping Bernard pretends to side with the Colored community but we all know better. It should be noted that James Patrick Anderson, Garrett Anderson and Brittany McGuire (father) opens up with the invocation. More naughty corrupt signs from a higher power.


      • 😆 gavel smash Anderson. Gerry…..Gerry…..Is Gerald “Gerry” Buhr the Anderson’s attorney on record? What a joke! Keep fighting Berniece you got this. Everytime you speak and raise awareness you send chills down the spines of the vile corrupted city government.

  6. $ 1,379,877.28 has been paid via the City of Avon Park to Mayor Garrett Anderson and council member Brittany McGuire immediate family.

    Cool & Cobb engineering firm. (Mason is Garrett and Brittanys cousin)

    Cobb Roofing

    Parkview Prep Academy (Candice & Brittanys nonprofit Private academy)

    Faith on Fire (Candice Anderson religious nonprofit)

    Promise Technologies (Mayors Father construction company, James Patrick Anderson)

    Cobb Paving (Mayors and Brittany Uncle paving company Sherri Cobb Anderson brother)

    McGuire Roofing (Brittanys husband Erik McGuire company)

    Daniel and Leah Sauls (Mayor Anderson business partner and manager, Oak Island Ammo and Anderson Arms) Sauls got the Brickell Building for free and Mayor Anderson backed the loan and plans to hyper inflate the value for CRA and Historical site grants.

    Mr. Byrne, we need an outside independent investigative look at this now! The corruption goes back way before Sauls.

  7. detail/news-photo/brittney-yohe-holds-a-sign-in-support-of-a-proposed-news-photo/71512126

    Back in the day, you could give a reporter a fake name and no one would conduct due diligence. That’s Brittany Anderson, AKA Brittany McGuire. AKA Brittany Yohe standing right next to her brother James Garrett Anderson AKA Mayor Garrett Anderson. Again, how has Avon Park progressed since in 1951? Something to think about the next time you head to the ballot box and check a name. The citizens deserve to know who their elected leaders really are and what they represent and stand for. Another black eye for Avon Park and the elected government. How Devastating, Shameful and Humiliating!

  8. https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/brittney-yohe-holds-a-sign-in-support-of-a-proposed-news-photo/71512126

    Notice the mole on the left side of her facial nose mouth crease. That’s Brittany (Anderson) McGuire 100 percent. Confirmed via Google Facial Recognition Software. 99.78 percent match. AI can take current photos and past photos and match them with extreme accuracy.

    My family owns a local Taqueria and their private school refused to do with business with our family owned restaurant and our dining options. Makes sense now why we were treated the way we were. I wonder if they were ever taught how, and who built America? Italians, French and Irish illegal immigrants built AP Main Street buildings in early 1900’s! I graduated from Avon Park High School and cannot begin to tell this forum how many times my classmates called me derogatory racial slurs and foolish hateful names. Avon Park needs a Latino minority representation on its Council now! Latinos are the majority population in Avon Park and never have forgotten the damage the city council has done. The same holds true with the African American residents too.

    • Only one minority allowed on the council a time. Sutherland is a Latina and she really messed up Anderson for the firing of David Flowers. Mayor has Mark Schrader by a death grip. Schrader has to side and submit with his boss, the Mayor, the Man, the Legend, James “Garrett” Anderson. 6 more years of Anderson and McGuire special interests and garbage.

    • Brittany and Garrett picketing together in 2006. Fast forward 17 years later and now they are the bosses of Avon Park? Ignorance is bliss. When we moved here in 2008, we heard rumors. Now these rumors have been born into truth. Mayor loves to cruise main street in his new Range Rover with the windows down, cherishing what little hair he has left on his head and his nonexistent integrity and shame. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put everything together. Mr. Jason Bryne, can you please do a story on Avon Park and the Anderson scandals and agendas? You are the perfect journalist to bring this to fruition!

      • I appreciate the vote of confidence, but not sure that’s my lane. I’m a “journalist” by hobby, not by profession; I have a full-time day job and no longer live in Highlands County. I find that history is an amazing way of informing our present. It adds valuable context to interpret current events. I will fight for issues, like social justice. However, I try to stay clear of modern politics because (clearly, as illustrated here) it’s an ugly ugly business.

        • Smart choice Jason Bryne. It’s drama on the highest level, back stabbing and special interests. Because after all, American Indians once occupied what is now New York City according to our historical expert and Mayor, Garrett Anderson. Not sure if anyone caught the reference of displacing an indigenous population (hint, hint a preview of things to come) because of development. Brittany knew better than to allow Mr. Chui a free pass without paying the Anderson toll for his multi family duplex resort off Lake Lotela. The other out of town developer has already secured his toll and you gotta pay before you can play!

          Brittany and Garrett are after all, Avon Parks certified master planners and development liaison specialists. 🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮 I believe Brittany McGuire and Daniel Sauls are still active on the CRA and CDA boards. Which would be a major conflict of interest if you ask any reasonable level headed individual.

    • Same heavy black eyeliner smeared all over her eyelids and the watch is on her left wrist as always. Some habits never die! Brittany and Candice always walk around with designer purses and wear these weird blouses with see through lattice around the shoulder and sleeve areas. It’s really bizarre behavior. It’s like the Duggar family have gone roge attempting to be semi promiscuous and risky!

  9. Welcome to Avon Park, City of special interests and corruption. Not sure why everyone is surprised about the Anderson camp and how the ride. They were taught at a very young age to be political and devious. Sherri Cobb Anderson lost it with Garrett and Brittany when her brothers company lost the bid to resurface the airport by 20k. They are extremely toxic and one of the most sick minded group of human beings I have ever encountered in my adult life.

    • The Anderson’s had a master plan. Garrett Anderson was sent as a mole for his city government participation meant to gain intimate personal knowledge of how city finances worked and alliance building commenced. The Cobb element knew that Carl Cool was the only engineering firm in the county and Mason was sent to get his engineering degree from the University of Florida.

      Magically, Mason was employed and was offered partnership with Carl Cool as he saw the intrinsic value of his cousin Garrett Anderson being a newly elected Council member and the vast access of intimate knowledge available. With a stroke of luck, competing outside city bids were out performed by the local guy who was always somehow able to beat the outside bidding competition. Yes, there were contentious scandals that arouse from time to time, but Councilman Garrett Anderson was needed to infiltrate the competing bids as a operative to secure bids for the Cobb and Anderson family contingent and continued contracts. Quid pro quo style.

      James “Jim” Bernard, a local transplant who hails from Illinois befriended the Anderson and Cobb camp and was encouraged to help save Avon Park. The perception of his age and wisdom was an added plus to help the young newly commissioned Mayor as an ally. This alliance was formed as Bernard was a born again humble servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. That dynamic possessed value to the Anderson and Cobb camp who profess devotion with ult right Christian principles and values.

      Many council members came and went during the 14 year crusade, but Garrett Anderson stuck it out and won over the hearts and minds as a crusader who would be known as the savior for the City of Charm. Something happened in 2020, Anderson was being flagged and investigated my multiple sub committees under the direction of State Ethics Commissions and State level law enforcement entities. Previous city manager David Flowers started to get comfortable with city dealings and became sloppy with email chains and phone calls. A lone crusader and Council woman, Maria Sutherland began to slowly expose Anderson and Flowers. Sutherland became overzealous, and Anderson and Bernard saw this as another opportunity to discredit her through publication of false defamatory add campaigns. This discredit campaign was executed the same way Sherri (Cobb) Anderson, Garrett Anderson and Brittany (Anderson ) McGuire had executed with previous City manager Julian DeLeon, another Hispanic gentleman who tried his best to rid the City of corruption and special interests.

      Brittany McGuire ran for city Government as their was a level of uncertainty with Mayor Garrett Anderson and his over zealous, in your face approach to politics and blow hard ways that would end the intimate bid access and profiteering knowledge. Brittany McGuire was more credible and possessed somewhat less baggage than her brother, Garrett Anderson. McGuire by default, would continue the quest to have all intimate access for incoming out for bid figures as a continued skilled insider in the event that Mayor Garrett Anderson would lose the most recent election.

      Avon Park has to change. Four of the Five current Council members are previous friends. Shelly has had her children enrolled in Parkview Prep Academy owned by McGuire and Anderson. Brittany and Garrett are brother and sister. Jim and Garrett are close allies and Jim will always side with Garrett, Brittany and Shelly no matter if he disagrees with the agenda. Poor Berneace Taylor has become the sacrificial Lamb in the Wolfs lair. She has been thrown under the bus all because she wants the City Government to be fair and just for all citizens. This needs an eye now! I really enjoy Jason as a journalist, his courage to expose our wicked past and the injustices our system continues to cause for so many Americans!

        • Evil it’s free advertising for Parkview Prep Academy Avon Park FL. Mayor, Brittany and Candice Anderson are once again benefiting for their participation on a super crappy city government platform. They are bunch in of Narcissistic selfish beings. Parkview Prep Academy has a naughty checkered past. Just Google it!

        • Candice Anderson in a condescending tone says it’s kind of expensive to put on the fireworks display as her goofy uncertain nervous laugh conveys. She was nervous that Council member Taylor was going to bring up the circulated documented photo of Candice Anderson abusing and ripping her fingernails into the Prep Academy student boys arm. That was a major scandal and the Mayor begged Sheriff Blackman and the SAO not to arrest Candice Anderson. Let the record show that Parkview Prep Academy is the only private school on the city website. Why aren’t the other private schools listed? Let’s keep it fair Avon Park. Yeah right. This is sick, sick behavior by the City and proves that Taylor is on to something!

      • DeLeon inherited a nightmare scenario when he took the city manager position. Anderson and McGuire repeatedly asked for special considerations and favors when Parkview Prep Academy was green lighted for expansion. Anderson was even more demanding for special favors regarding ordnance violations at the behest of the ATF. Everyone plays for team Anderson. If you don’t agree with them, you’re gone! City management is clueless about the racketeering and influence that has dominated our city for the past 100 years. Someone in the city finance department has total access and has been tipping off council members for years about incoming bids and figures. That’s how the Mayors family always wins bids. They portray an image and use whatever means, ideologies, or political stances available. It’s the same tactic the pastor in the church uses by shaming it’s congregation for not contributing to the collection plate. The city attorney definitely plays for team Anderson. It’s one big rotten good ole boy system. Thank you Mr. Byrne for bringing awareness!

    • Brittanys campaign slogan “I want to give back to the City”. It should’ve read, “I want to give back to my family and closest friends”. Because that has occurred on every possible level. Code enforcement director LaBelle has challenged and pleaded with the city attorney and manager to put an end to it. Mum is the answer. Mark Schrader is terrified of going against the Anderson machine on fear of losing his job and position.

  10. Hey Bri, Candi and Garrett it’s John Cooter. Y’all got this. Keep Avon Park great! Taylor is a woke socialist and should be voted out immediately!!!

  11. Don’t get it twisted. The Anderson’s pretend to do things out of the goodness of their heart. There is no good in any of their hearts. They worship money, power, vanity and represent the very problem with political unstableness and racial disparities. Tax payer funded Florida School Choice and Step Up grant money pays for everything. They report that the nonprofit pays them $32,000 a year as a salary? But yet they drive 100k cars? Now let’s use common sense and apply it here. No way in gods creation would a bank underwrite a car note for 100k when the applicant makes $32,000 a year. Non profits are a legal means to launder money legally and unconditionally. They should make a provision in the city charter that bans individuals from serving in city government if they or an immediate family member owns and operates a nonprofit and the entity benefits from tax payer funded city funds! End of story!

  12. Pretty disrespectful that Garrett Anderson and Brittany McGuire didn’t bow their heads and just stared at the Spanish speaking pastor during the invocation at the Council meeting. Whenever Garrett Anderson or Brittany McGuire say the invocation those heads are deep down bowed. Actions and mannerisms speak way louder than words. Shame on both of them! Who do they think they are fooling? Hang in there Berniece! They have done exposed themselves for a very long time now and you have to stand up for all AP citizens on exposing the corruption and agendas!

  13. Candice Anderson and Brittany McGuire love the Hispanic demographic. They both love to teach the importance of cheap labor and reiterating the roles that Brown demographics play in our ever changing economy at their private academy. They also teach that the dinosaurs roamed the earth when Jesus was around! A for ABEKA! F for failure!

  14. And the icing on the cake was the ransomware attack on the Avon Park City network that simultaneously attacked the Sheriff’s Office network. Rumor has it that FDLE and SOID were on to something big concerning the Avon Park City Council. Ironically, all the incriminating cyber evidence and public records magically got compromised. Someone who had access planted the ransomware physically into both data frames. This is fact. It’s like the Tootsie Pop commercial, How many licks does it take to get into the center? The world will never know.

    • 😂😂😂😂😂 The world will never know! Highlands County knows, and everyone has accepted that Avon Park is rotten to the core! No hope left for it’s citizen makeup. Everyone needs to accept the rotten hand they have been dealt. Avon Park is a sleazy hub for seedy developers. Our current administration has taken bribe money from the big players who wish to redevelop the Southside and make it more caucasian friendly.

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