Street to Be Named for Civil Rights Leader; Hayling Organizer in St. Augustine

Article excerpt

Byline: Shawna Sundin, Times-Union staff writer

ST. AUGUSTINE -- One of the organizers of the 1960s civil rights movement in St. Augustine will be permanently honored if plans are finalized to rename the street where he once lived for him.

The City Commission at its Monday meeting is expected to approve renaming Scott Street in the West Augustine area Dr. R.B. Hayling Place. Robert B. Hayling, a dentist who moved from Tallahassee to St. Augustine in the early 1960s, initiated the protest actions that eventually played a key role in fighting discrimination in the city.

Although a final vote on the renaming ordinance won't have occurred yet, a street renaming ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Scott Street and Rollins Avenue.

Mayor George Gardner said he doesn't "see any opposition" to the ordinance, which was passed unanimously June 9 on first reading. The second and final reading is Monday.

Hayling, 73, now lives in South Florida. He could not be reached for comment but is expected to attend the ceremony.

Hayling, who is black, ran a dental practice in St. Augustine in the early 1960s in which he treated white patients even though medical care was still mostly segregated then, St. Augustine-area historian David Nolan said. In 1963, Hayling organized campaigns against local segregated public facilities and urged the White House not to support the all-white event set to take place in 1965 to celebrate St. Augustine's 400th birthday.

When those efforts failed, he organized civil rights demonstrations in early 1964 and convinced the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to come to the city to participate.

Hayling's dental practice suffered as white people stopped coming to him because of his civil rights efforts. The loss of his business and continued threats against him and his family forced him to leave St. Augustine.

"Dr. Hayling was like Rosa Parks, really an extraordinary person," Nolan said. "He had a tremendous effect on American history and he's really one of the unsung heros of St. Augustine because he was forced to leave town after that.

"So this is the first thing the city has done to recognize him."

The 1985 book, Racial Change & Community Crisis, by David Colburn, provost and senior vice president of the University of Florida, retells the story of Hayling's involvement. …