For Immediate Release
Holly Finch, Director of Advancement and Communications
(561) 832-4164 ext 106



West Palm Beach, FL | May 2, 2017 – More than 150 members and guests attended the Historical Society of Palm Beach County’s Annual Membership Meeting on Monday, April 25, 2017, in the 1916 Palm Beach County Court House, home to the society and the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum. The meeting traditionally features presentation of the society’s annual Fannie James Pioneering Award and Judge James R. Knott Historical Contribution Award; installation of new members to the Board of Governors; and the State of the Society address by President and CEO Jeremy W. Johnson. This year’s meeting was sponsored by Wilmington Trust and included a brief trailer for an upcoming documentary of the first 100 years of the 1916 courthouse, the second oldest building in the county, in the context of county history.

Johnson welcomed attendees and reviewed the society’s accomplishments. Since last year, the Johnson History Museum had welcomed over 40,000 children on field trips, distributed history and civics education tabloids to over 35,000 students, and implemented new history interpreter and mock trial field trip programs to bring civics and local history to life. He thanked the society’s volunteers, who contribute more than 5,500 hours annually greeting visitors, caring for the archives, operating the Museum Store, and staffing special events.

The meeting continued with the election and installation of officers and board members. The slate of officers for 2017-2018 includes: J. Grier Pressly III, Chairman of the Board; Thomas M. Kirchhoff, First Vice Chairman; Richard S. Johnson Jr., Secretary; Mark Stevens, Second Vice Chairman; Carey O’Donnell, Deputy Secretary; Ross W. W. Meltzer, Third Vice Chairman; and David J. Thomas III, Treasurer. Mariano Garcia was named General Council and Robert W. Ganger, Member Emeritus.

The Board of Governors for the 2017-2020 term includes Jeffrey Alderton, Russell P. Kelley III, George Mavlios, Sharon Merchant, Peter Nicoletti, and Jeffrey P. Phipps Sr. Elected to the 2016-2019 Board of Advisors are Pat Seaton Johnson, Gary S. Lesser, and Sidney Stubbs Jr. For 2017-2020, Erica Whitfield and Mack Bernard were elected as ex-officio.

Board member Cheryl Burkhardt presented the Fannie James Pioneering Award to Susan Oyer, president of the Lake Worth Pioneers’ Association, Inc., for keeping alive the memories and spirit of our earliest pioneers. In May, the association will hold its 123rd annual meeting, where stories are passed on to younger generations. This year they will welcome the first new members in memory, the Harper family, descended from the area’s first midwife-nurse, Millie Gildersleeve.

The Fannie James Pioneering Award recognizes achievements of individuals and organizations that have significantly contributed to preserving and sharing the history of Palm Beach County’s pioneering days. Established in 2003, the award is named for Fannie James, an African American pioneer and the first postmistress of the Jewell Post Office (now Lake Worth) from 1889 until 1903. Past recipients include Helen Vogt, Marjorie Watts Nelson, Ted Brownstein, Janet DeVries and Dr. Ginger Pedersen, Everee Jimerson Clarke, the Loxahatchee Guild, Royal Poinciana Chapel, Ethel Sterling Williams, Michael Bornstein, Charles Hofman, Vera Rolle Farrington, Roy Rood, Robert Hazard, and Laurita Collie Sharp.

The Judge James R. Knott Historical Contribution Award was presented by former Board Chair Harvey Oyer to Robert W. Ganger for his part in bringing together the resources to secure endorsement by government officials and private funding support to restore the historic courthouse. His service includes thirteen years on the society’s Board of Governors and presidency of the Delray Beach Historical Society. After restoring an important historic home in Gulf Stream, Ganger authored the award-winning book Lila Vanderbilt Webb’s Miradero.

The Judge James R. Knott Historical Contribution Award recognizes the achievements of an individual or organization that has contributed to the preservation, promotion, or enrichment of Palm Beach County history. The award was established in 1989 to honor the late Judge James R. Knott, who served as president of the Historical Society from 1957 to 1969. Past recipients include the Palm Beach Centennial Commission, L. J. Parker, Ineria E. Hadley-Hudnell, Dr. Reginald J. Stambaugh, Robert Hudson Neff, Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum, Harvey E. Oyer III, Flagler Systems Inc., Palm Beach County Commission, Yesteryear Village, Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, the Palm Beach Post, Judge Marvin Mounts, Donald J. Trump, Eliot Kleinberg, Richard J. Procyk, Garden Club of Palm Beach, St. Paul’s AME – West Palm Beach, Royal Poinciana Chapel, St. Edward’s Catholic Church, Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, Frances Bourque, Katherine Dickenson, James A. Ponce, Antonette Dennison, PhD., Donald W. Curl, PhD., Mary C. Linehan, Ambassador Earl E. T. Smith, Barbara Hoffstot, and Bessie Wilson DuBois.

At the conclusion of the meeting, attendees were invited to view the Library of Congress’s Magna Carta: Enduring Legacy 1215-2015 exhibition in the courtroom, along with the current special exhibition, For the Love of the Game: Baseball in the Palm Beaches and the permanent galleries during a cocktail reception.



Since 1937 the Historical Society of Palm Beach County has collected, preserved, and shared the county’s history. The Society reaches hundreds of thousands of Palm Beach County’s young people, residents, and visitors through its archival collections, the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum in West Palm Beach’s historic 1916 Court House, and community and education programming. To make a donation, become a member, or learn more about the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, call 561.832.4164 or visit


The Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum enriches the lives of children and adults alike by making local history accessible, interesting, and meaningful. The museum contains two second-floor interactive, permanent exhibits—The People Gallery and The Place Galleryand a Rotating Exhibit Gallery.

In addition to the permanent and rotating galleries on the museum level (second floor), visitors may tour the courthouse’s two-story, 2,897-square-foot historic courtroom and balcony on the third and fourth floors of the building. A central component to the museum experience is a visit to the seat of the county’s judicial beginnings.

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