If you’ve ever met Peter Anderson, you know he’s a man of character and faith who gained the respect of his colleagues and locals alike. The genesis of his Florida Park Service career was the Neighborhood Youth Corps in Key Largo in 1965. This period was the peak of the Civil Rights Movement and change was in the making.
“Pete came from a very poor Black neighborhood in Key Largo. I knew Pete when our high school was integrated in 1964. Pete is a true gentleman in all respects. He took advantage of educational opportunities, worked hard, and was accepted for who he is as a man of character, not his color,” said Don Scott, retired park manager of Jonathan Dickenson State Park and former Key Largo resident.
Peter Anderson’s first job was in the Neighborhood Youth Corps, an anti-poverty federal work-training program. It was established in 1965 with its major objective to increase the employability of out-of-school youth. The program focused on unemployed boys and girls between 16-22 years old. Peter would work in the program during the day and in the evenings on his GED at night school.
The Florida Park Service offered job opportunities, through the Corps, to provide skills training in a variety of areas. This was during the early days of the development of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The training and work consisted of constructing picnic tables, painting, constructing picnic shelters plus the regular duties of park work. This was dirty, hot, and sweaty work. Some of the needed tools and support equipment for the program at Pennekamp came from the surplus property at Homestead Airforce Base.
Don Scott said, “Out of the five young men from the Black community of New Port only Pete had the stick with it attitude; the rest quit. Think about it, these were the very tough days of integration.” Park Superintendent Ellison Hardee recognized Pete’s ability and potential and hired him as a park attendant. Peter was later promoted to park ranger and then assistant park manager at Pennekamp. In 1983 he was promoted to park manager at Highlands Hammock State Park where he retired in 2010, after serving there as the park manager for 27 years.
“When Pete was promoted to Highlands Hammock as the manager, that county and area were very segregated! I never heard Pete say a word about how tough it was for him and his family. At Pete’s retirement, I think every important politician and notable figure in Highlands County and the surrounding area was in attendance!!! That’s a testament to his character,” said Don Scott.
During Black History Month we highlight Peter Anderson who was the first Black park manager in the Florida Park Service. Throughout his career, he set a positive tone for professionalism and high standards for those who worked with him.
By Tom Linley, Florida Park Service Ranger Association
Mission - Support those who serve Florida State Parks, past and present, by providing financial assistance, cultivating a family atmosphere, and perpetuating a spirit of unity and service.
Vision - Supporting those who serve Florida's State Parks
Motto - Family, Service, Traditions