Bess Beatty


John Willis Menard was thirty-three years old when he arrived in Florida in 1871. Born in Kaskaskia, Illinois, he had attended Iberia College in Ohio and had been employed by the federal government during the Civil War. His service on a committee which surveyed areas in Central America as possible sites for settlement of emancipated slaves had made him even more aware of the needs of the black freedman. He was the first black to be elected to the United States House of Representatives, although he was never seated. He also for a time was editor of the New Orleans Standard. Menard possessed the talent, education, and experience to become a major force on the Florida political scene during Reconstruction and the tumultuous years that followed.