October 19, 2007

Chiles and His Florida: Marianna

Marianna, just west of the Central-Eastern Time Zone divide on highway 90, probably stuck out for Chiles on his walk because of Chipola College. In his day, it was called Chipola Junior College, but now it offers full bachelor's degrees and it's got a new name. Apparently, the sports program isn't too shabby these days either. At about 6,000 residents, Marianna is also a bit bigger than the average courthouse town in the Panhandle. And it would have to be to support a community college.

And of course, Marianna doesn't want for Confederate lore. There is even a website and book devoted to the Battle of Marianna (1864), a small Union victory. Federal troops may have spared Tallahassee, but they laid waste to Marianna without much trouble.

Its proximity to Panama City Beach and the pleasant Chipola River running through it have gotten it a couple golf course communities--Florida State Golf Course and Indian Springs Golf Course. The location probably made for good digs in the old days since it's approximately equal distance from the two main towns of Old Florida--Pensacola and Tallahassee.

Marianna is the Jackson County seat, one of the oldest in Florida since originally there were only two regions in Florida--East and West--covering the length of the modern Panhandle and North Florida. In 1822, the Florida Territorial Legislative Council divided West Florida into Jackson and Escambia Counties.
Jackson County Courthouse, with easy access to I-10 and US 90.
One of the biggest county courthouses in the Panhandle I suspect. It was raining off and on all day and lighting was tough.

It was getting late in the day, so I didn't get pics, but I did see a correctional institute on the edge of town that I suspect is the one mentioned in the Walkin' Notes:

I visited the Marianna School for Boys in Marianna and I really enjoyed that visit. The last time that I went to a correctional school for boys was in Okeechobee a little over a year ago and that time I came away tremendously depressed. The boys all had very vacant looks, a complete lack of hope, a frustration on their faces and even the staff people did not seem to have any enthusiasm for the program.

But all that is changed, I think, in our whole system and I know it has in Marianna. Lennox Williams, who's the director of the school, is doing an excellent job as is Ollie Keller, the director of the Division of Youth Services.

They have put in group sessions. They have the boys in cottages and in those cottages they have several groups. The boys get together with anything that's bothering them or any problems that they're having between each other. It gives them an identity, it really gives them something that they can attach to and it makes them realize, I think, that someone does care. They get to caring about each other in that group and helping each other.

I talked to a number of the boys that had been to Marianna 2 or 3 times before this group program went in. All of them felt that they had a better chance of helping themselves and being able to get back into society than they'd ever had before. Now there is an air of hope about these boys. They're all enthused about the program. So I came away from there with a feeling that Florida is really on the track in this correctional institution for our boys.

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