Nov. 4, 1982: Voters cast ballots at Rangeline Feed and Supply at 5353 SR 7 in suburban Lake Worth (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Sept. 4, 1984: At the Reservation Fire District station west of Boynton Beach, Benjamin Weston of Lake Worth drops his ballot in the box as volunteer Rae Wilson looks on. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Nov. 4, 1980: Voters line up to cast ballots at Precinct 89, the Southboro Fire Station on Southern Boulevard in West Palm Beach. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Oct. 7, 1980: The Century Village precinct was busy at mid-morning. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Sept. 10, 1980: Jonathan and Anna Oliphant play near voting booths in Boynton Beach. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
March 11, 1980: Nat Meshbert, acting deputy sheriff, sips a hot cup of coffee as he mans the polls at the 83rd precinct at the main fire station in West Palm Beach. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
March 11, 1980: Ballot boxes (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Sept. 9, 1977: Supervisor of Elections Jackie Winchester demonstrates the Votomatic machine to election officials. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Sept. 8, 1970: Voting booths somewhere in Palm Beach County. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
Nov. 6, 1968 (click on the image to browse The Palm Beach Post from Nov. 6, 1968)
Tags: elections, photos
Recently we wrote of Eva Mack becoming West Palm Beach’s first black mayor in 1982.
An even greater milestone was reached a half century ago this month, on April 17, 1962, in Riviera Beach:
Frank Malcolm Cunningham became the first black person elected to public office in Florida, and possibly, the South, since Reconstruction.
A committee comprising Cunningham’s relatives, friends and admirers is set to hold a “diversity luncheon” April 17.
Born in 1927, Cunningham, whose father was a Plant City farmer and grocer, was barred from Florida law schools, so instead got his degree from Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., in 1953. He then moved with his wife and new child to West Palm Beach.
His in-laws fretted that a black lawyer would have no chance in the white man’s courtroom. Undaunted, he became Palm Beach County’s second black attorney.
Cunningham belonged to the Negro Welfare Board and the Colored Property Owners Association. But he wanted to be part of more than “Negro” this and “Colored” that. So in 1956 he ran for the Riviera Beach council.
While it’s predominantly black now, at the time, white voters outnumbered blacks two to one.
Cunningham outpolled incumbent Bruce Caddy by 200 votes. But Caddy bested him in the runoff, 1,362 to 952.
In 1962, Cunningham tried again, challenging longtime incumbent John A. Flaherty.
Again, Cunningham had the most votes, 1,200 to 579, but again the race went to a runoff. This time, the 35-year-old father of four broke the barrier, but just barely, beating Flaherty by 41 votes.
“I’ll be frank with you,” Flaherty told Palm Beach Post columnist Geoffrey Birt. “I’m the first white man in the state of Florida to be defeated by a Negro. That’s hard.”
In fact, he was at a loss as to how Cunningham’s tally included 299 votes in an almost all-white precinct. “It shows that people are changing their way of thinking,” Cunningham said.
Next Week: You can’t kill an idea whose time has come.
The Malcolm Cunningham anniversary diversity luncheon is set for 11:30 a.m. April 17 at Carrabba’s Italian Grill, 2224 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., West Palm Beach Call (561)596-1357 or visit the Celebrate Diversity website for more information.
Post Talks: Florida’s Wonderful and Wacky History
Join Post reporter and author Eliot Kleinberg as he takes you on a whirlwind tour of 500 years of Florida history, and how it has changed Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast for better or worse. Eliot makes a strong argument that Florida’s biggest challenge is encouraging its transplants to become Floridians, so they will engage in solving the state’s problems.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
6:30pm until 7:30pm in the auditorium at The Palm Beach Post
2751 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33405
This lecture is FREE, and all registered guests will be entered to win an iPad. Call 561-820-4206 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to reserve your seat.
Tags: African Americans, elections, Riviera Beach
On April 5, 1949, Estelle Murer became the first woman to serve on the West Palm Beach city commission. It was 26 years before the next woman, Carol Roberts, was elected in March 1975.
Tags: elections, This Week in History, West Palm Beach, women
1980 electoral vote map (click on the image to browse the Nov. 5, 1980 Palm Beach Post; but note that the colors don’t show up in the black and white microfilm):
1976 electoral vote map (click on the image to browse the Nov. 5, 1976 Palm Beach Post):
1972 election results:
Results of the May 4, 1964, primary elections took up three handwritten pages in The Palm Beach Post. Click on the image below to see those pages in The Palm Beach Post of May 5, 1964.
In 1956, the precinct votes in the primary election for the governor’s race were typeset, but detailed results of other races weren’t printed in the paper. Click on the image to see the May 9, 1956 edition of The Palm Beach Post.
The 1940 primary election included a vote on creating a Palm Beach County mosquito control district:
Check back for more historic election results from our archives.
Tags: elections, newspapers