Museum hours: Mon-Sat: 10a.m. - 5p.m. | Sun: noon - 5p.m.

Introducing the Brechner Speaker Series


Named in honor of the late Joseph L. Brechner, an award-winning journalist, community leader, and freedom-of-information advocate, this new series of speaker programs focuses on the media in Florida’s history. All programs take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Orlando Public Library and are free. The History is Center is offering free parking validation for this event. This series is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

October 4
Donn R. Colee Jr.: “Towers in the Sand: The History of Florida Broadcasting”

Broadcasting touches almost every person in the United States every day. But like the air we breathe, we seldom give it a second thought. In this program, Donn R. Colee Jr. discusses the history of Florida’s broadcasting industry, beginning in 1922, as well as the people who brought radio and television stations to life and the events that saw the state grow from boom to bust and back again, on its road to becoming the nation’s third most populous state. Colee’s program is based on his book, Towers in the Sand: The History of Florida Broadcasting, which tells the stories of more than 80 Florida broadcasting pioneers and current leaders.

A second-generation Florida broadcaster, Donn Colee began his career as a teenage DJ playing rock ’n’ roll at WLOF-AM in Orlando. He’s a member of the Florida Association of Broadcasters and the Florida Historical Society, among other groups, and currently lives in Palm Beach Gardens.

Orlando Public Library (Albertson Room, 3rd Floor), 6-7:30 p.m.

October 18
Willie Clark with All-Star Panel: “On the Air: The History of Black Radio in Orlando”

In the 1950s and early ’60s, radio personalities such as Clyde on a Cloud, Bigfoot Saul, and the Hossman were household names in Orlando’s black communities. All were heard regularly in Central Florida during an era when radio DJs reigned as major figures in popular culture. This program will revisit the beginnings of minority broadcasting in the Orlando area and chronicle its emergence as a dominant media platform in the community. The program includes a brief retrospective on the city’s black radio pioneers and the history of WOKB-AM 1600 (“Tiger Radio”), the area’s first full-time black station, followed by what promises to be a lively panel discussion with legendary radio personalities, executives, and at least one former radio station owner, “telling it like it was.”

Willie Clark is an award-winning broadcaster, entrepreneur, and community activist with 30-plus years of experience in the radio and television industry.

Orlando Public Library (Albertson Room, 3rd Floor), 6-7:30 p.m.

November 1
Gary Mormino: “From 9/11 to Pulse”

Often called the dean of Florida historians, Gary Mormino returns to Orlando with a program on the media and Florida in the years 2000-2016, a time when “no novelist could imagine a plot involving the real-life events that took place in the state,” Mormino writes. “The story opens with the zany 2000 election and the unthinkable tragedy of 9/11 and ends with the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub and the election of Donald Trump. In between the bookends, Florida experienced the worst recession in modern history. The media played a critical role in this melodrama.”

Gary Mormino is the Frank E. Duckwall professor emeritus at the University of South Florida. In 2015, he received the Florida Humanities Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Writing. His books include Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida.

Orlando Public Library (Albertson Room, 3rd Floor), 6-7:30 p.m.

November 15
Adam Ware: “Sunshine State of Mind: Florida in the American Imaginary”

“The media” often refers to the news or entertainment media. But even an idea can be a medium – an idea, for instance, of a sunny paradise where any plant will grow, any idea will succeed, or any dream can be realized. Through real estate ads, citrus-crate labels, souvenirs, and shuttle launches, the idea of Florida has moved people to travel, to invest, to relax, and to persevere. In this program, historian Adam Ware looks at the varied ways the Sunshine State operates in American feeling and memory, from “the Italy of America” to “Florida Man.” He’ll discuss the materials that evoke and invent our image of Florida and the pioneers and entrepreneurs who mobilized the concept of Florida to change the course of the state’s history.

Adam Ware is the Orange County Regional History Center’s research librarian, managing the use of all published materials and overseeing the oral history collection. He has a doctorate in Religion from Florida State University with emphases in 20th-century American religion, media history, and museum studies.

Orlando Public Library (Albertson Room, 3rd Floor), 6-7:30 p.m.