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The Unstoppable Spirit of Sparta Jenkins

By Forgotten Coast Web Team | February 16, 2023

sparta jenkins - apalachicola fl

Sparta Jenkins was a civil rights leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist from Apalachicola, Florida. He was born to a family of modest means, but from a young age, he had a strong drive to succeed. He attended school until the eighth grade but was forced to quit to help support his family. Despite this challenge, he had a passion for learning and began reading books and newspapers in his free time.

The Fuller Hotel in Apalachicola

Fuller Hotel - Apalachicola, Florida. 1900 (circa)
Fuller Hotel – Apalachicola, Florida. 1900 (circa)

Jenkins was born in about 1857. He was raised in Alabama and lived there until roughly 1880. He traveled with his family down the river to Apalachicola, where he was employed as a domestic servant. Jenkins worked odd jobs for most of his life to support his family. He eventually opened his own store and became a successful entrepreneur in Apalachicola. He was part owner of The Fuller Hotel in Apalachicola. Two years after acquiring the hotel, his business partner William Fuller, died. Fuller’s widow sold her share of the hotel to Jenkins, and he continued to run the finest hotel in town. His business continued to thrive through WWII until the construction of The Gibson Inn. After the Gibson was opened, Jenkins converted his hotel into an apartment complex.

First motorized boat in Apalachicola Bay – “Sadie J”

Sparta Jenkins - "Sadie J"
Built and owned by Sparta Jenkins – “Sadie J” was the first motor-powered vessel in Apalachicola Bay

In addition to the hotel, Jenkins built and owned the first motorized boat in Apalachicola Bay. He named the 45-foot craft after his oldest daughter, “Sadie J.” He used the vessel mostly for fishing and hunting excursions for sportsmen and tourists, but he also used it to shuttle people back and forth to Little St. George Island. In a sense, he pioneered chartering local waters. He was the first to offer a quicker and more efficient mode of transportation in Apalachicola Bay and the original charter fishing guide with a motorized vessel.

Apalachicola Freedom Marcher

In addition to his philanthropy, Jenkins was a staunch advocate for civil rights. He participated in the March on Washington in 1963 and was a leader of the Apalachicola Freedom Marchers in 1964. He also worked with local civil rights organizations to organize educational programs and voter registration drives. Jenkins used his financial success to support the civil rights movement. He provided financial support to the local NAACP and other civil rights organizations. He also gave legal help to those in need and generously to churches. Throughout his life, Jenkins dedicated himself to improving the lives of those around him. He was a firm believer in education and was instrumental in the desegregation of schools in the Apalachicola area. He was also a major proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment and worked to ensure that women received equal pay and treatment. Sparta Jenkins was an important figure in the civil rights movement and the history of Apalachicola, Florida. He is remembered as one of the most successful businessmen in Franklin County. He was revolutionary in many ways, and his contributions to the community are invaluable. His commitment to justice and equality left an indelible mark on the community and will not be forgotten—he is a true local legend.

H’COLA Legend

Sparta Jenkins is a legendary highlight in The Hillside Coalition of Laborers for Apalachicola “H’COLA.” The coalition hosts an annual H’COLA African-American History Festival every year in February. The H’COLA Festival is an outdoor, family-oriented event celebrating local African-Americans’ life, heritage, music, and culture in the historic Franklin Square of Apalachicola.