The opening of the Highwaymen Museum
is a dream come true
BY ANNA INGRAM
The creation of the Highwaymen Museum, which is
opening in Fort Pierce in February, didn’t happen overnight.
It started about 63 years ago when Doretha met
Alfred Hair at Coley’s Drive-in on 25th Street in Fort Pierce.
It was 1959, and 16-year-old Doretha had just moved from
West Virginia to Fort Pierce
with her siblings to live with
their older sister after their
mother had died. As she
was a high school graduate,
Doretha worked as a waitress
at a segregated bus station on
U.S. 1 and Avenue D to help
support her siblings.
Within a month of moving
to the city, she met Alfred and
her first impression of him
“Alfred asked me if the
schools were integrated in
West Virginia,” she recalled.
“I told him no. That question
made me take notice of him. It
was a strange question to me
as the other guys were trying
to get a date.”
It wasn’t much longer after their first encounter that the
pair started to date. Alfred was still a student at Lincoln Park
Academy, taking art classes from Zanobia Jefferson. Doretha
said she had no idea that Alfred wanted to be an artist. But
everything changed when she discovered that Albert “Bean”
Backus was mentoring him.
According to Doretha, Alfred was very dedicated to her
and her siblings, helping them whenever he could. Alfred
even insisted that Doretha pursue college and in 1960, the
couple moved to Tallahassee so she could attend Florida
Agricultural and Mechanical University.
The couple lived in Frenchtown while Alfred created his
paintings and Doretha painted his frames. In 1963, Alfred
proposed at Christmas. Unfortunately, because Doretha didn’t
have a birth certificate, they were denied a marriage license.
Because he was unsuccessful at selling his paintings in Tallahassee,
he would drive to South Florida, stay until he sold
his paintings and go back north to repeat the process.
By 1965, the couple had moved back to Fort Pierce and
Alfred’s art career took off. He became so successful that he
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1234 Avenue D, Fort Pierce
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taught Doretha how to paint the backgrounds of his paintings
to produce more work.
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He then hired a salesman, Clarence “Zoom” Banks, because
he realized he would have more time to paint if Banks sold
his works. Banks was so successful that Alfred and Doretha
had to hire another salesman, Al Black. Since Alfred needed
more paintings for two salespeople, Doretha continued to
help paint his backgrounds with the help of her younger
brother, Carnell Smith.
With Doretha’s unwavering dedication to Alfred’s art
Hair was known for his quick painting style, shown here in a landscape
featuring a Royal Poinciana tree. Oil on Upson board.
Doretha Hair Truesdell is the
founding member and president
of the Highwaymen Museum and
the Original Florida Hall of Fame