Daddy's South Florida Palette by Peggy Brady
My dad-David H. Brady, Sr., was a Columbus, Ga native whose family moved to the new world of West Palm Beach in the 1940’s when he was in High School. There he played baseball and eventually was drafted by the New York Yankees. Ironically, that was on the same day he enlisted in the Navy to become a pilot in World War II. He returned to South Florida after the war with a degree in Civil Engineering from Georgia Tech beginning the firm that would be known as Adair and Brady. In the early 1950’s in response to severe flooding from a series of hurricanes, Congress authorized one of the largest drainage and flood control systems in the world. Dad and his firm would spend hours surveying the many still wild Florida landscapes including the Loxahatchee river where they sometimes even spent the night deep in its swamps and marshes.
Often on his way home he would see a group of African American painters in bank parking lots or set up on street corners and every time he pulled over. He was struck by how well he felt they painted the world as he saw it every day. Dad was an avid art lover underneath that tough Navy Pilot exterior. He bought at least one painting every time he stopped by and at one point had around 30 pieces. He gave away almost all of them to friends that would tell him how much they, too, loved the work. He kept just three.
Those three were the ones he said captured best the world of south Florida as he saw it. He told me that the ones by James Gibson, with their iridescent colors, looked eerily like those tense nights spent in the woods. And, Newton’s felt as hot as those days spent measuring and plotting that piece of Florida. When I grew up and found the arts to be my calling he wanted me to have those paintings. I am old enough to have received that gift well before the fame of the Highwaymen began. But, it matters very little to me that these paintings have increased well beyond the $30 he paid for each. They were my Dad’s memories of and appreciation for an important time in his history. It means the world to me that I can so often be reminded of my sweet Daddy every time I see them.
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