A Special Talent

When born to Alabama farm laborer Jolly Bracy and his wife Easter in 1897, James Charles “Charlie” was blessed with a special talent.  In 1920, Charlie, wife Queenie and young son Walter lived in Jasper County, Texas where he worked in the turpentine industry.  According to his son Walter “Doc”, the family moved to Osceola County, Florida in 1925 where Charlie used his special talent and worked as a turpentine taster at the turpentine camp in Illahaw.  Turpentine has a proof, like alcohol and Doc would tell the story of how his father could taste the turpentine and determine the proof.  When tested with special equipment for determining the proof of the turpentine, Charlie was always “right on the money” with the equipment’s findings. 

Florida Turpentine farm

My mother wanted me to be a doctor Doc, naturally is short for doctor and Walter was given the nickname as a small child, because his mother wanted him to pursue that profession.  Life had other ideas for Walter and during World War II, he was in the United States Navy, serving on submarine patrol duty in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Bracy - blog pic

Breaking ground

In 1968 Doc went to work for Osceola County as an inspector at the county’s auto inspection station. The color barrier was broken in 1976 when he was chosen as the first Black to be the station’s Supervisor.  When mandatory automobile inspections were abolished by the Legislature in the early 1980s, the county eventually closed its station and Doc retired.   Doc passed away on July 6, 2006 and was buried with military honors in Florida National Cemetery, Bushnell, Florida.

Sources: Ancestry.com; “This Week” June 1, 1980; “Orlando Sentinel” January 25, 1987, July 14, 2006; Find A Grave

Written by:

Anza Bast

If you wish to learn more about the turpentine industry in Florida, read this interesting article.