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Dr. Hayling's Dental Office

Dr. Hayling's dental office at 79 Bridge Street.

Dr. Hayling's dental office at 79 Bridge Street

Dr. Hayling provided his dental office as a meeting place for many of the planning sessions with Dr. Martin Luther King and other leaders. It was also the headquarters for pro-bono lawyers who came to town to represent jailed demonstrators.

This building was a racial statement even before Dr. Hayling arrived. It was built in the 1950s by Dr. Rudolph Gordon as the first medical-dental office constructed in St. Augustine without racially segregated rooms. Dr. Gordon named it the Rudcarlie Building after the members of his family: Rudolph, Carlotta and Rosalie. A stained-glass window at St. Cyprian's Church honors Dr. Gordon and his wife. He died in 1959, and Dr. Hayling rented the office the following year.

Dr. Hayling the Hero

Dr. Hayling's home at 8 Dr. R.B. Hayling Place.

Dr. Hayling's home at 8 Dr. R.B. Hayling Place

Dr. Hayling's crusade to end segregation in St. Augustine was victorious with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, he paid several high prices along the way. Homes in town were burned, and he received a bomb threat on his dental office. While he hurried over to the office to protect it, a drive-by shooting into his home barely missed his pregnant wife and killed his dog. A KKK rally left him with broken ribs, eleven less teeth, and a right hand permanently maimed to impair his dentistry. Local officials fined him for the Klan attack and forgave his attackers. His dental business suffered to the point of closure. But perhaps worst of all, Dr. Hayling was rejected by much of the community for which he suffered so much. After the law was passed, Dr. Hayling moved his family and his practice to start anew in south Florida.

The street Dr. Hayling lived on was renamed in his honor in 2003.

The street Dr. Hayling lived on was renamed in his honor in 2003.

Although St. Augustine had a hard time weathering the civil rights storm, once it was over, the benefits of desegregation slowly surfaced. Locals tested the waters of legal equal rights. For example, Dr. Hayling's landlord, Rosalie Gordon-Mills, ran for a seat on the city commission in 1965 - the first black woman to do so in St. Augustine's history. Thirty-eight years later, she watched with pride as the city commission renamed the street Dr. Hayling lived on to Dr. R.B. Hayling Place.

Despite threats on Dr. Hayling's office and his house, both buildings still stand. They proudly display markers for the ACCORD Freedom Trail.

Further Reading

  • Shirley Bryce's, "St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement," 2004.
  • Gwendolyn Duncan's "Dr. Robert Hayling," 2004.
  • Robert Dow's "Yesterday and the Day Before: 1913 to the Present" in The Oldest City, 1983.
  • Michael Gannon's Florida, A Short History, 2003.
  • Dan Warren's If It Takes All Summer, 2008.
  • Jim Carrier's A Traveler's Guide to the Civil Rights Movement, 2004.
  • Taylor Branch's Pillar of Fire, 1998.
  • Tom Dent's Southern Journey, 1997.
  • David Colburn's Racial Change and Community Crisis: St. Augustine, Florida, 1877-1980, 1991.

By Amy Howard. Last modified 2-6-09.

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