Wayne Gazelle Fields is proud of his late father, Dr. Julius Gazelle Fields. Dr. Fields was a black man and the original son of Saint Augustine, born in 1921 to parents Robin Homer Fields and Annie Mae Hankerson. Raised in the African American community of Lincolnville, he attended West Augustine Segregated Elementary School #6 and Excelsior High School, and graduated from Florida Memorial College, which was located in West Augustine.
“My father was a kid in the secluded area of St. Augustine, where people of color at the time were not expected to achieve much,” Wayne Fields said in a phone interview from his home in Gainesville. “But my parents proved them wrong.”
After graduating from Florida Memorial, Fields was commissioned as an officer in the US Army, where he served in the Philippines in World War II and was wounded. He earned the Purple Heart, was discharged as a captain, came home and enrolled at Fisk University in Nashville and then Mahari Medical College to study dentistry.
After medical school, Dr. Fields returned home in St. Augustine to set up his practice in the grand Victorian home of his mother, Annie Fields, at 82 Bridge Street in the city’s Lincolnville in 1951.
The house was sold to the city after Mrs. Fields’ death and was demolished to build a parking lot.
According to local historian David Nolan, the intersection of Bridge Street and Oneida Street was the medical and dental center of Lincolnville during the first two thirds of the 20th century, with the offices of many dentists and physicians.
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Augustine’s civil rights leader and fellow dentist Dr. Robert Hayling, who came to town in 1960, had his office at 79 Bridge St Hayling and also attended Mahary Medical College.
Wayne Fields said, “My father developed a group of patients of mixed races. This was when St. Augustine was positively and positively separated.” “But he was one of the best dentists in the area. So both blacks and whites went to him.
“Men like my father, Dr. Hailing, and all the other black professionals in town were the heart of their community during apartheid,” Fields continued.
The St. Augustine City Commission recognized Dr. Fields
Earlier this year, the St. Augustine City Commission honored Dr. Fields and his place in the community with an announcement of his honor in celebration of National Dentist Day.
“Today we gather with Dr. Fields’ family to acknowledge, appreciate and honor Dr. Julius Gazelle Fields in celebration of National Dentist Day, March 6, 2022. Recognition of Dr. Fields as an African American dentist serving both African Americans and the Caucasus said Deputy Mayor Nancy Sykes Klein during the presentation Introductory, The sick during the apartheid of St. Augustine until his death in 1967.”
According to his family, Dr. Fields also played a role in Saint Augustine’s civil rights protests in the 1960s.
“My father met Dr. Martin Luther King when he came to town, and he fully supported his efforts and those of the other protesters,” Wayne Fields said. “He worked hard to integrate the beaches.”
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It is a tragedy that he died at such a young age
“The story of Dr. Fields is a story that must be told. This is a man who was a product of the impeachment of St. Augustine. A man who went to county schools, served his county and then returned to serve his community.” His cousin Derek Boyd Hankerson said. “And he didn’t have to. It’s a tragedy that he died at such a young age.”
Fields was 45 years old when he died of a heart attack on April 30, 1967.
“My dad died when I was 13. He was scared because he was a civil rights activist, and it was very likely that if he got hurt, he probably wouldn’t make it out. So it was a simple clogged artery, which could have cleared out,” Wayne Fields said. Angioplasty claimed his life.
Although it has been a long time since, Dr. Fields’ legacy is still remembered by his family.
Wayne Fields is a former University of Florida soccer star and business owner who now runs a nonprofit organization helping youth and minority businesses.
Derek Hankerson’s brother, Dr. James Gazelle Hankerson, is an anesthesiologist in Tampa.
“People like Dr. Fields are still inspiring,” Hankerson said. “It deserves to be mentioned.”