Tag Archives: Zora Neale Hurston

The Urban Legend(s) of “Barefoot Bill”

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“Barefoot Bill” seemed to be everywhere in Jacksonville at once, a phantom menace, a “burglar bugaboo,” pilfering bedrooms of prominent citizens as they ate dinner downstairs. Whether or not he ever existed, Bill made headlines from the 19-aughts to the 1930s and as far away as South Carolina. Maybe he’s out there still.

Two Writers Dead on Bay Street

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When “Poor Sam Russ, one of the best, most brilliant and widely known newspapermen in Florida” drank himself to death “in a cheap lodging house” on Bay Street, newspapers said, “Dying alone, unwept and unsung,

[he] reminds us also of the death of Hamilton Jay, who, like Sam Russ, occupied a position on the Times-Union, was a brilliant writer of prose and poetry.” Hamilton Jay, the poet laureate of Florida, drank cyanide, leaving a note that said the voices would not stop calling; “I can hold back no longer.”