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Fifty Years Ago | September 1968

short stories of events and times during the formation of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast collected by the Rev. S. Albert Kennington, Diocesan Registrar-Historiographer


Eight-year old James Russell Kendrick began the third grade in Elliott Point Elementary School in Fort Walton Beach (where his wife, Robin, now teaches). A cradle Episcopalian who faithfully attended St. Simon's on the Sound Church with his family, he says he gave no thought at all to becoming the fourth bishop of a diocese that did not exist.

The rector of St. Simon’s at the time was the Rev. Edward Harrison. Of him, Bishop Kendrick remembers learning “he was active in the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi [when he was rector of St. Andrew’s Church in Jackson.] I like to think that a bit of social justice was seeping into my eight year old frame.”

Bishop George Murray later recalled that Fr. Harrison was much in favor of creating the new diocese being considered in the dioceses of Alabama and Florida and encouraged his fellow priests in Florida to support the proposal.

The special committees appointed in these two dioceses to study the proposal continued their work.

On September 12, 1968, the Executive Council of the Diocese of Florida, decided to share with the clergy and laity of the diocese the findings of its diocesan committee studying the feasibility of the new diocese. It was noted that this was only a sharing of information. The council had not yet decided to recommend for or against the new diocese.

In the national scene, 60 Minutes debuted on CBS on Tuesday, September 24, 1968, at 10 p.m. Eastern time. Initially a bi-weekly “news magazine,” it was some years later that it was given (occasionally preempted) times on Sunday evenings and became the cultural icon it is today.

In the previous month, Republicans and Democrats had held their national conventions and chosen presidential candidates: Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. The Democratic convention in Chicago had been marked by riots in the streets mostly in reaction to President Lyndon Johnson’s continued military policy in Viet Nam.

Recalling his own poor showing when debating John Kennedy in 1960, Nixon declined Humphrey’s call for televised debates.


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