by Jeff Blakley
How often have you driven south on U.S. 1 and seen the sign designating J. D. Redd Park on the right, just after passing Capital Bank? Did you ever wonder who he was? I had an idea but not much more than that. When I was a youngster, my mother would drop my brother and I off at Mrs. Redd’s day care facility, located at the corner of N.W. 1st Ave. and W. Mowry from time to time. I figured that J.D. Redd was related to Mrs. Redd, somehow, but didn’t know how.
James Daniel Redd was born on November 12, 1883 in Windsor Township, Aiken County, South Carolina. He was one of seven children shown in the 1900 census. Three of those children had left the household by 1900, as the 1900 census shows that James’ parents had 10 children, 10 of which were still living. His parents were Mashack C. (1850 – 1918) and Margaret Annabelle Fouts (1853 – 1927) Redd. They were farmers and James was a farm laborer. Whether his parents owned a farm or not, I do not know. But there were a substantial number of Redds in Aiken County – Redds had apparently been in that area for a long time. James’ father may have been farming inherited land but only deed research would be able to establish that.
On another page of the 1910 census, James appeared as a “laborer lineman” living on quarter boat #5 in the Key Matecumbe District in Monroe County. He was obviously working on Flagler’s railroad. James may have been here as early as 1906, a date given in an article in the April 17, 1942 issue of a newspaper called Community Review touting J.D. Redd as a candidate for the Dade County Commission.
James married Fanny Nottage in Key West on 20 January 1914, when they were both 31 years old. How they met is hard to say, but a possibility is that since Fanny was a cousin of Walter Tweedell’s wife (he married Maisie in Key West in 1904), Marian brought her daughter along with her on her frequent visits to Homestead, where she introduced her to James. In 1927, Marian’s husband, Francisco, sold cigars from a space in the Redd Building.
Note the cut off sign for Francisco’s store on the left side of this photograph. He shared space with B.W. Morris, who sold real estate.
Note who the registrar for the draft board was: Sid Livingston.
In the 1920 census of Homestead, Fanny’s parents were living in the Redd household. Francisco was 71 and Marian T. was also 71. Francisco had been born in Cuba in 1859 and was a naturalized citizen of the United States, being naturalized on May 15, 1893.
James had two brothers who also moved to Homestead. They were Chester Mashack Redd (15 May 1880 – 9 April 1954) and Frederick Hubert Redd (26 August 1892 – 18 April 1950). According to Jean Taylor, Fred had an Oakland car dealership in Homestead, but in studying the 1927 Homestead City Directory, I could only find an entry for Fred as being a “clothes cleaner” at 10 S. Krome Avenue, next to his brother James’ store, The Men’s Shop, at 4 S. Krome. Oakland cars at that time were sold by the Gordon Thompson Motor Company, at 103 N. Krome Avenue. Gordon E. Thompson was the president and treasurer of the company. If Fred had an Oakland car dealership in Homestead, it remains to be found. Fred was born in Montmorenci, Aiken County, South Carolina and in 1917, according to his draft card, he was an insurance agent for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in Charleston, S.C. He was not married at that time. In the 1920 census, he was single and living in a boarding house operated by James and Henrietta Chambliss in Homestead. He was still single. In the 1930 census, Fred and his wife, Othelia, were living with her father, Charles T. Fuchs. This was in the depths of the Depression – times must have been very hard, indeed. Fred and Othelia were married in 1922.
In 1910, Chester, James’ older brother, was living with his parents in South Carolina with Katie, the widow of one of his brothers and Katie’s daughter, Thelma, who was only 9 months old, in the household. In 1920, Chester was in Homestead, renting a house, where he lived with his wife, Lottie Pearl Barton Redd and their two sons, aged 7 and 2. In 1930, he was living with his family on N.W. 6th St. and his occupation was given as “truck farmer.” In 1945, Chester’s occupation is given as “laborer” and he was living with his wife and two of his children, Marjory and James. Chester died in 1954 and his widow in 1969.
Of the three brothers, James was the most well-known. He was very active in civic affairs and was elected County Commissioner for a number of terms. The answer to the question I posed at the beginning of this post is that the Mrs. Redd who ran the day care center was Fred’s wife.
Jean Taylor wrote that James D. Redd met John U. Free while working on Flagler’s railroad in the Keys and that when they came back up to Homestead, they became partners in business. That could be – I don’t know. From what I’ve learned, all three brothers were of humble origins and they worked hard to achieve what measure of success they obtained. None of them homesteaded land here or got any other breaks from the government. James must have been the most skilled in dealing with other people, as he was a successful businessman who was elected to the Homestead City Council in 1913, the year that Homestead was incorporated. He subsequently served on both the City Council and the Dade County Commission. In 1921, Walter Tweedell resigned from the County Commission because of his failing health and Redd was appointed to take his place. Redd was the County Commissioner representing Homestead from 1921 until the fall of 1942, when he lost the election to Preston B. Bird, 13,178 to 16,824. He served continuously except for 1935-36, when he declined to run for re-election due to health issues. He was a member of the Homestead City Council from 1913 until 1935.
J.D. Redd died on February 24, 1965 at the age of 81. His wife, Fanny, had died on September 17, 1957. He, his wife, and his wife’s mother, Marion, are buried at Palms Woodlawn.
Now, the next time you drive by J.D. Redd Park on Homestead Boulevard, you’ll be able to tell your passengers something about the man for whom the park was named.