Monday, December 26, 2016

GWENDOLYN DUNCAN -- page one tribute in The St. Augustine Record

Cool lady. Gwen and family are a force for good.
We're blessed to live in the same town with so many thoughtful, compassionate activist people -- getting things done in our Nation's Oldest City.
Yes we can!

Posted December 26, 2016 07:14 am - Updated December 26, 2016 07:26 am
By Anne Heymen Record correspondent
10 WHO MAKE A DIFFERENCE -- GWENDOLYN DUNCAN: A life of service entwined with Lincolnville

When Gwendolyn Annette Perkins Duncan was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in March 2015, she said she had a talk with God.

“Lord, I don’t think it’s my time. I’ve still got things to do,” she recalls telling Him.

“God didn’t let me worry about it for one second,” and a month after she was diagnosed — after putting her trust in her “wonderful doctor,” Tre Dihn — the result was that her surgery was successful and she needed no further treatment.

God “gave me peace,” Duncan explained recently while seated in the reception area of the ACCORD museum — standing for Anniversary to Commemorate the Civil Rights Demonstrations Inc. — at 79 Bridge St.

Duncan, born and raised in Lincolnville where the museum is located, is a fifth generation of the tight-knit community and served as president of ACCORD from 2003-13. “This is the first medical and dental office with no segregated waiting room,” Duncan says with pride. The building was constructed by Rudolph Gordon, and as Duncan conducts a tour through the rooms steeped in history of the civil rights struggle, she points out the original tile floors, the wash basins in each room of the former medical facility and the numerous historic treasures which have been donated .

Gordon was one of the first black dentists and maxillofacial surgeons in Florida. After he died in 1959, Robert B. Hayling opened his dental practice there. Hayling was also a leader of the local civil rights movement, and many important meetings were held in the building, some attended by Martin Luther King Jr. and other notables.

“Here,” Duncan motions, pointing to one of the enclosed cases, “is a page from a Bible belonging to Henry Tyson.” It bears names of those synonymous with the movement — King, Hosea Williams and many others.

Although she and her husband, Richard, also a native of Lincolnville, have lived in Palm Coast for the past 13 years, the Lincolnville community of St. Augustine remains near and dear to both of them, and ACCORD is just one of many areas in which Gwendolyn Duncan’s touch can be found.

As she notes in her biography, she’s spearheaded many activities and programs to, as she writes, “bring to light the rich history of the 1960s movement led by Dr. Robert B. Hayling, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership.”

“I’ve known her for some years,” said the Rev. Richard P. Burton Sr., pastor of Baptist Bible Church in Orange Park. “She is an awesome person. She has a lot of leadership qualities. She has a caring heart and she is a true Christian and a believer.”

“She’s a good mother and a civil rights warrior.”

Tony Hill, who met Duncan when Hill served in the Legislature and represented St. Augustine, describes Duncan as “a visionary that is not caught up in herself.” One of her missions, says Hill, is to make sure people know the contribution Hayling made to not only St. Augustine, but to Florida. She’s dedicated to not only sharing the contributions of Hayling, but “other civil rights icons in St. Augustine.”


Civil rights, however, is just one area in which Duncan has been involved. Her service has ranged from serving as a tax assistant volunteer for the Community Action Agency and a fundraiser for the St. Augustine All-Stars Softball Team to the Fort Mose Historical Society.

She was a prevention specialist for Drug Education and Prevention Center’s Lincolnville Educational Assistance Program, serving as a coordinator of the Lincolnville Educational Assistance Program (LEAP) — an after-school program to assist disadvantaged youth with emphasis on educational, cultural, social and recreational activities; and as a program leader for St. Johns County Recreation Department at the Galimore Center.

The 1974 graduate of St. Augustine High School, who earned an AA degree from St. Johns River State College, is the recipient of numerous awards. Among them are the Good Samaritan Award from Catholic Charities, Professional of the Year honors from the Drug Education and Prevention Center and recognition in past years from The St. Augustine Record.

She’s worked at a variety of jobs including as a substitute teacher and a teacher’s assistant, but her greatest passion, she emphasizes, are her children. Raised by her mother and stepfather, Mary Louise Sales Thomas and the late James W. Thomas, Duncan says her mother continues to live in Lincolnville. Duncan’s biological father is the late Benjamin Perkins Jr. Duncan is one of eight girls by her mother; and she has three half sisters and a half brother.

She’s the mother of five grown children: Dalonja M. Duncan, who holds both a bachelor’s and master’s from FAMU and is employed by the St. Johns County Public Library System and followed in her mother’s footsteps when Duncan stepped down as leader of ACCORD; minister Zachary J. Duncan, pastor of the Grace and Truth Prayer Center of the Apostolic Faith Inc., West Augustine, for which Duncan serves as secretary/treasurer; Zebulun Duncan, a graduate of the University of Florida who holds both a MBC and BISE; Priscilla D. Duncan, who earned a DPT, MPHR and BBS in her college studies; and Elizabeth Duncan, BBA, who serves as project manager for Town and Country Homes. There are four grandchildren, including twin girls, and two who are “baking in the oven,” so the number will soon be six, “praise the Lord,” says their proud grandmother.

Duncan points with pride to not only her children, but her entire family and the long and rich heritage they share with Lincolnville.

“My ancestors go back to the 1800s here,” she notes. Her great-grandmother, Abbie Findley Hailman was a founder of the Historic St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church.

And most likely, rating right up there at the top of Duncan’s list, along with her family, is establishment of the ACCORD museum. Open by appointment only, tours can be arranged by calling 347-1382.

“There are so many stories” of those who have toured the museum, Duncan concludes — teachers and cadets from West Point. People come from around the world to visit this historic museum.

Mon, 12/26/2016 - 07:20
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