Descendants

The Ocoee Massacre affects all of us, even a century later. Yet it is the families of the victims who have survived in the most difficult circumstances. They continue to demonstrate their resilience and exert influence through their voices and actions. ATJ is pleased to partner with these strong individuals in our collective efforts toward reconciliation.

Gladys Bell

Ms. Gladys Bell is the daughter of Richard Allen Franks and Irma Morgan Franks.  Her father was the nephew of July Perry.  Her grandfather, Daniel Richard Franks, and her great uncle, July Perry, married two sisters.  Her paternal grandmother, one of the two sisters, was named Carrie Betsy Franks.

Ms. Bell’s father, Richard Franks, was a survivor of the Ocoee Massacre of 1920.  Stories of her father’s life were shared with the family around the dinner table and throughout the community.

Ms. Bell is a native resident and community leader in Plymouth, Florida.  She graduated from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee and has two sons.  She retired after 40 years of working for the Orange County (FL) government.  Ms. Bell is very active in her community as well as at her church.

Patricia Rae Merritt Hitchmon Whatley

Mrs. Patricia Rae Merritt Hitchmon Whatley is the great granddaughter of Mr. Jack Hamiter, a farmer, and Mrs. Annie Hamiter, a nurse.  Their third child, Hattie Hamiter Merritt was Mrs. Whatley’s paternal grandmother, the mother of Charles Hayward Merritt, Mrs. Whatley’s father.  Jack and Annie Hamiter were survivors of the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Massacre, who escaped to Sanford, Florida, leaving behind their home, rental apartments, and orange grove properties.

Mrs. Whatley is an educator, entrepreneur, administrator, vocalist, actress, and published author. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Talladega College, Alabama, and a master’s degree in Education Administration and Supervision from Nova University, Fort Lauderdale. Among her many accomplishments, she founded and served as the Artistic Director of the Tajiri Arts School and Museum, an after-school performing arts program in Sanford. The school was named after her son, Kamili Tajiri Hitchmon, who is currently a civil engineer with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Tajiri Arts opened its doors in October 1988, with 10 students and Mrs. Whatley as the lone instructor.  Through a broad range of artistic classes, its mission was to provide students with structured, supervised activities that would raise their self-worth, prepare them for academic competence, equip them with tools for successful social interaction, and teach discipline, respect and individual responsibility through history and culture. Over the 20 years Mrs. Whatley served as director, Tajiri Arts trained more than 3,500 students, ages 3 to 17. 

The remarkable journey of Mrs. Whatley’s community work and the Tajiri Arts School was chronicled in her book, From the Outhouse to the Little Red School House. She has received many awards recognizing her service in Florida, including as Seminole County Teacher of the Year and the NAACP Humanitarian Award.

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Ms. Gladys Bell is the daughter of Richard Allen Franks and Irma Morgan Franks.  Her father was the nephew of July Perry.  Her grandfather, Daniel Richard Franks, and her great uncle, July Perry, married two sisters.  Her paternal grandmother, one of the two sisters, was named Carrie Betsy Franks.

Ms. Bell’s father, Richard Franks, was a survivor of the Ocoee Massacre of 1920.  Stories of her father’s life were shared with the family around the dinner table and throughout the community.

Ms. Bell is a native resident and community leader in Plymouth, Florida.  She graduated from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee and has two sons.  She retired after 40 years of working for the Orange County (FL) government.  Ms. Bell is very active in her community as well as at her church.

Mrs. Patricia Rae Merritt Hitchmon Whatley is the great granddaughter of Mr. Jack Hamiter, a farmer, and Mrs. Annie Hamiter, a nurse.  Their third child, Hattie Hamiter Merritt was Mrs. Whatley’s paternal grandmother, the mother of Charles Hayward Merritt, Mrs. Whatley’s father.  Jack and Annie Hamiter were survivors of the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Massacre, who escaped to Sanford, Florida, leaving behind their home, rental apartments, and orange grove properties.

Mrs. Whatley is an educator, entrepreneur, administrator, vocalist, actress, and published author. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Talladega College, Alabama, and a master’s degree in Education Administration and Supervision from Nova University, Fort Lauderdale. Among her many accomplishments, she founded and served as the Artistic Director of the Tajiri Arts School and Museum, an after-school performing arts program in Sanford. The school was named after her son, Kamili Tajiri Hitchmon, who is currently a civil engineer with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Tajiri Arts opened its doors in October 1988, with 10 students and Mrs. Whatley as the lone instructor.  Through a broad range of artistic classes, its mission was to provide students with structured, supervised activities that would raise their self-worth, prepare them for academic competence, equip them with tools for successful social interaction, and teach discipline, respect and individual responsibility through history and culture. Over the 20 years Mrs. Whatley served as director, Tajiri Arts trained more than 3,500 students, ages 3 to 17. 

The remarkable journey of Mrs. Whatley’s community work and the Tajiri Arts School was chronicled in her book, From the Outhouse to the Little Red School House. She has received many awards recognizing her service in Florida, including as Seminole County Teacher of the Year and the NAACP Humanitarian Award.

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