career, Alfred co-founded a group of painters now known
as the Highwaymen. A group of 26 African American artists
Florida landscapes in the 1950s.
Faced with unprecedented circumstances, the group did not
let racial segregation get in their way of becoming successful
artists. Since they couldn’t sell their art in whites-only galleries,
they would park their vehicles on the side of the road and
sell their paintings to tourists and residents passing by.
The Highwaymen’s colorful works capture the essence of
Florida’s beauty. During more than two decades, they created
at least 200,000 works of art. The paintings are energetic,
vibrant and overall beautiful representations of Florida landscapes
comprised The Highwaymen, who had started painting
Save the Date
7th Annual Martin County Open Studio Tour: March 11 & 12, 2023
Preview Exhibit at The Elliott Museum: February 23, 2023
39 Artists • 22 Locations
Look for the new Tourbook Guides mid January!
3746 SE Ocean Blvd, Harbour Bay Plaza
Stuart, Florida 34996
painted from memory.
On Feb. 7, 1966, Alfred and Doretha finally married. Together
they had four children, Alfred Jr., Sherry, Roderick and
Lisa. Then tragically, on Aug. 9, 1970, Alfred was killed at Eddie’s
on Avenue D, seven weeks after his youngest daughter,
Lisa, was born.
According to Doretha, all four of their children have artistic
gifts, but only Roderick is a professional painter. And she has
continued her artwork. In 1980, Doretha married John Truesdell
Jr. and relocated to New Jersey. But her dream of creating
the Highwaymen Museum never wavered.
Doretha’s younger brother, Highwaymen artist Carnell
Smith, was president of the Highwaymen organization when
she was secretary. Smith tried establishing a Highwaymen
Museum in Fort Pierce years ago, but he died of cancer
in 2015. “I never gave up on the dream,” she said. “I was
determined to work with
the City of Fort Pierce to
establish a Highwaymen
Museum before I close
my eyes for the last time.
Everything happens in its
own time. Alfred’s impact
on the phenomenon of what
is now the Florida Highwaymen
cannot be underestimated.
His desire to teach
and share his love of art
with everyone contributed
to young men becoming
salesmen and artists even
though he was only 29
years old when he was killed.”
Today, there is a significant connection between the Backus
Museum and the Highwaymen Museum. They share members
on each of their boards. Also, Backus worked with
Harold Newton and Alfred, who he trained, to inspire others
to try painting. As a result, they formed an informal group out
of the Indian River School and learned skills from one another.
The creation of the Highwaymen Museum represents a
historic moment for African American artists. In February,
the museum will open in the Jackie L. Caynon Sr. Building,
which was renovated by a grant from the Department of
State, Arts and Culture Division.
The plan is to display the works of all 26 original Highwaymen
on the second floor with plans for a community art
studio on the first floor.
Doretha and her late husband, Alfred
Hair, had four children together.