Biography of Dr. John O'Hara Boynton, Havana, Florida

Submitted by Barbara Boynton

John O’Hara Boynton was born in Caldwell County, Kentucky, September 12, 1899, the eighth of nine children born to George William and Lou Ella McGowan Boynton. He died February 22, 1983, in Havana, Florida, and is buried in the Shelfer Cemetery at Havana.

He joined the Army in World War I but was sent home because he was under age. When he was of age he joined again. While awaiting deployment overseas he contracted a severe case of measles that so debilitated him, he was discharged as soon as the war was over in 1918.

His tombstone tells his story: Scholar and Teacher. He was both, plus much more, during a versatile career embracing pharmacy, education, politics, naval stores, forestry, law and state development.

As a young man, he studied pharmacy under a tutor and was certified as a registered pharmacist on October 13, 1920. He attended the University of Kentucky for three semesters completing two years of work while supporting himself as a pharmacist. He was the first man to earn a bachelor’s degree from Florida State College for Women (1934).

While visiting his brothers in Havana, he met and later married Sarah Clifford Harris on November 4, 1924. They were the parents of five children: Sarah Ross, John O'Hara, Jr. (Jack), James Milton (Jimmy), Clarence Robert (Bubba), and Clifford Denise.

He taught school in Havana. He and his brothers William James Boynton, Clarence Boynton and Glover Boynton were operating turpentine stills under the name of Boynton Brothers when the hurricane of August 1928 destroyed the timber they had been working. After this, John went to Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee, and completed his law degree on June 5, 1929. He returned to Havana and began teaching again and became principal of the Havana School. During the summers he attended Florida State College for Women, where he received his Masters degree in 1946.

In 1935 he accepted an appointment as Educational Director of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in the Choctawhatchee National Forest. There his interest in wildflowers was born, and he became a knowledgeable speaker and writer on this subject.

Forestry was another subject of interest to Dr. Boynton prompting him to take a summer course in forestry at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In 1937 he began work with the Florida Forest Service as a State Farm Forester, enlisting farmers and land owners to plant pine trees with seedlings supplied by the Forest Service.

In 1943 he was elected as Gadsden County Representative to the Florida Legislature.

In 1948, having completed two years of doctoral studies at Duke University, Dr. Boynton began teaching at Florida State University. While teaching at FSU, he also taught continuing education courses through the University of Florida at various cities throughout the state.

In 1957 Dr. Boynton began serving as a consultant to the Florida Development Comission, and in 1961 became Director of Research and Planning for the Commission. Another job opportunity became available, and Dr. Boynton went to work with the Florida Department of Education, Division of Health and Rehabilitative Services where he worked until his retirement in 1970. After his retirement in 1970, Dr. Boynton taught one year at George Wallace College in Dothan, Alabama.

Despite debilitating rheumatoid arthritis, he remained active outdoors. He loved fishing and enjoyed his cottage at Lake Talquin for a number of years. He then built a home in Maggie Valley, NC, staying there several years before returning to Havana, where he enjoyed his family, flowers and his vegetable garden.

Dr. Boynton was often a guest speaker at the Salem Methodist church and for many clubs and groups. He seemed to know a little bit about everything and could produce a literary quote appropriate for any occasion. He was a man with a quest for knowledge and enjoyed teaching others.