<a The event that brought the civil rights movement in St. Augustine to international attention was the arrest of Mary Parkman Peabody (1891-1981), the 72-year old mother of the Governor of Massachusetts (Endicott (Chub) Peabody) , for trying to be served in a racially integrated group at the Ponce de Leon Motor Lodge on March 31, 1964.
The socially prominent Mrs. Peabody, whose husband was an Episcopal bishop, and who was related to Eleanor Roosevelt, stayed here at 177 Twine Street when she was not in the St. Johns County Jail. She was the guest of Mrs. Loucille Plummer (1924-1978) a nurse and civil rights activist.
Mrs. Plummer’s house was the target of a firebombing attempt in 1965 because of her civil rights activities, but she did not let that dissuade her. According to Audrey Nell Edwards (one of the St. Augustine Four), Loucille Plummer “was a rock” in the cause of equal rights.
Mary Parkman Peabody(1891-1981) the mother of Endicott Peabody the Governor of Massachusetts along with Hester Campbell, Florence Rowe and Esther Burgess, the wife of the first Black Episcopal Bishop in the United States traveled to St. Augustine Florida to desegregate restaurants and hotels in the area. Working with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference the group of ladies descended on the local restaurants and when refused service they participated in a sit-in refusing to leave. Mary Peabody at the age of 72-years-of-age along with the 92 others was arrested. Mrs. Peabody spent 2 nights in jail to help desegregate the American south.
Governor Endicott Chub Peabody of Mass 1962-64 , Mary Parkman Peabody’s son
Mary Parkman Peabody, the eldest of five children of Henry Parkman and Mary Frances (Parker) Parkman, was born on July 24, 1891, in Beverly, Massachusetts. She attended the Winsor School in Boston, Massachusetts, and Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut. In 1912, after inheriting money from an uncle, she embarked on a trip around the world with two friends and a chaperone, traveling to India, Burma, Ceylon, China, Japan, and the Philippines. After returning, she took classes at Simmons College School of Social Work and in 1916, she married Malcolm Peabody, son of Fannie and Endicott Peabody, the founder of Groton School. They had five children: Mary, known as Marietta (1917-1991), Endicott (1920-1997), George (born 1922), Samuel (born 1925), and Malcolm, Jr. (born 1928).
The couple settled in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where Malcolm Peabody was first curate and then rector of Grace Episcopal Church. Shortly after the birth of their first child, Malcolm Peabody began service as a World War I chaplain in France. During his absence, Mary Peabody worked with the Women’s Liberty Loan committee, which encouraged women to buy Liberty Bonds to support the troops, and was active in community welfare projects. Malcolm Peabody returned to Lawrence in 1919, and in 1925 the Peabodys moved to Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, where he served as rector of St. Paul’s Church; in 1938 he was elected bishop coadjutor of central New York and became bishop the following year. The Peabodys relocated first to Utica and then to Syracuse, New York. Mary Peabody taught religious classes for public school students in Syracuse and took in German and Austrian refugees during World War II. In 1960, Malcolm Peabody retired and the Peabodys moved again, to Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 1964, at the age of 72, Mary Peabody was recruited by a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to join a civil rights demonstration in St. Augustine, Florida. She traveled with Hester Campbell, wife of the dean of the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Florence Rowe (mother-in-law of her son Malcolm), and Esther Burgess, wife of the first black Episcopal bishop in the United States. At the request of the demonstation’s leader, Dr. Robert Hayling, Peabody and her companions attempted to get service at local restaurants and hotels. They were refused and Peabody was arrested for participating in a sit-in at a segregated motel dining room; she spent two nights in jail, drawing praise from Martin Luther King, Jr. Her son Endicott was governor of Massachusetts at the time, and partly because of this, her arrest drew a great deal of press coverage and she received large amounts of mail both praising and condemning her actions.
Following her return to Cambridge, Peabody remained active in the civil rights struggle and made many public appearances. She also worked for the rights of American Indians and the establishment of a school in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Malcolm Peabody died in 1974 and Mary Peabody died of heart failure on February 6, 1981.
Mrs. Mary Parkman Peabody 2013 Recipient of the ‘Dr. Robert B. Hayling Award of Valor’
In honor and recognition of her courageous acts displayed during the 1964 Civil Rights Movement, ACCORD presents the “Dr. Robert B. Hayling Award of Valor” Posthumasely to the Late Mrs. Mary Parkman Peabody.
In a June, 2013 letter written by her son Malcolm E. Peabody, to Ms. Dalonja Duncan, President of ACCORD, Inc., he states, “I will be unable to attend the event, but…honored to receive the award in absentia…if mother were alive today, she would be very proud to receive the…award…she would insist that the courage of all those who participated in the demonstrations, particularly the children and Dr. Hayling…far exceeded what she was required to display…In representing my family let me say how touched we are to have this honor placed on our mother”
The Annual “Dr. Robert B. Hayling Award of Valor” was initiated and sponsored, July 2, 2009 by former Florida State Senator Dr. Anthony ‘Tony’ Hill. Past Recipients are Mr. James Jackson, Mr. Clyde Jenkins, Rev. Goldie Eubanks+, and Mrs. Loucille Plummer+ who had as a guest in her home, Mrs. Peabody in 1964.
It was 49 years ago: March 31, 1964: a time of excitement in the Nation’s Oldest City. It was spring break, and many college students had come to town — not to go to the beach, but to take part in civil rights demonstrations. The Elk’s Rest on Washington Street was the headquarters. The historic two-story building had meeting facilities, and also a kitchen where food could be prepared (civil rights veterans can still remember the peanut butter sandwiches). Integrated groups would be organized and sent out to the restaurants, lunch counters, motels and churches to see if they would be served, barred or arrested.
Not all of the visitors were students. One was Mary Parkman Peabody, 72-year-old wife of an Episcopal bishop, cousin of Eleanor Roosevelt, and mother of the governor of Massachusetts. Her presence in St. Augustine was very big news. FBI reports show that J. Edgar Hoover himself began taking an interest in the Nation’s Oldest City when he learned the governor’s mother would be coming here.
Mrs. Peabody agreed to “test” (in the parlance of the day) the Ponce de Leon Motor Lodge on U.S. 1 north of town. Two of her white friends, a Harvard professor and the wife of the president of the Episcopal Theological Seminary, agreed to go with her. They looked around for black people to accompany them — and came upon the women working in the kitchen of the Elk’s Rest: Georgie Mae Reed, Rosa Phelps, Cuter Eubanks, Nellie Mitchell and Lillian Twine Roberson. They were driven home to dress appropriately for the occasion, then went out to the Ponce Lodge — and were arrested. The next day it was front-page news all over the country. From that time until the signing of the landmark Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, St. Augustine got more media coverage that it had in the previous 399 years of its existence.
The sacrifices they made led Martin Luther King to hail them among the Heroes of St. Augustine”. Of these five black women, only Lillian Twine Roberson is alive today. A sister of the late city Commissioner and ViceMayor, HenryTwine. Lillian now lives in Jacksonville, FL. Her home on Gault Street in North City was burned down in 1964 (only the brick steps remain) after she sent her children to integrate the previously allwhile Fullerwood School and her husband was fired from his job at a local car dealership because of his civil rights activities.
One of the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that grew out of the demonstrations in St. Augustine outlawed job discrimination — not just against blacks, but also against women. Every woman who now has a job that in previous generations reserved for men only, owes a vote of thanks to Mrs. Mary Parkman Peabody and the other “Heroes of St. Augustine”.
David Nolan, Historian & Author Anniversary to Commemorate the Civil Rights Demonstrations, Inc. http://www.accordfreedomtrail.org