At the recent annual meeting of the Florida Historical Society, Charles Tingley, Senior Research Librarian for the St. Augustine Historical Society was presented the Arthur W. Thompson Award for the best article in any issue of the 2016 Florida Historical Quarterly.
The article titled, “Another Invisible Man: Alexander H. Darnes, M.D.,” concerns a long forgotten man who was born and raised in St. Augustine enslaved by the Smith family. He spent his teenage years as the valet to Edmund Kirby Smith, a U. S. Army officer who became a Confederate general.
After the Civil War, he received his college education at Lincoln University in Chester, Pennsylvania and graduated with a medical degree from Howard University in 1880. He immediately set up a medical practice in Jacksonville, Florida. He was the first African-American with a modern medical practice in Florida. Darnes was the physician to James Weldon Johnson, the author of Lift Every Voice and Sing and was fondly remembered in his autobiography.
He served with courage during two of the greatest health emergencies in Jacksonville
history: the small pox epidemic of 1884 and the yellow fever epidemic of 1888. At the time of his death in 1894, Darnes was the Deputy Grand Master of the Prince Hall Masons of Florida.
Mr. Tingley began researching Alexander Darnes prior to the St. Augustine Historical Society erecting a statue to A. H. Darnes and E. Kirby Smith at their childhood home in 2003. This building is now the Research Library for the Historical Society