parallax background

Hall of Fame Original Florida Highwaymen
Fort Pierce, Florida, A Legend of the Road!

"The History Maker!" "Johnny Lee "Hook" Daniels, A legend of the Road, is an icon on the Highwaymen Heritage Trail in Fort Pierce, Florida. The legend bridged the 2nd Generation to the Original Highwaymen. Daniels began as a young boy. Born July 22, 1954, he started by making frames for a young group of painters in the mid-1960s and shortly afterward started his lifetime career painting as a teenager. Johnny painted directly after his brother Willie Daniels; today, they are both recognized as essential parts of the Highwaymen's history.

Johnny was the youngest of the group but ranked among the top ten in seniority of the early core Originals.
The veteran painted authentic Florida for over 40 years with the movement and is among the twenty-six Originals inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004. His accolades were many when the icon died at the young age of fifty-four.
Johnny Daniels's work is valued in the ten's of thousands and is part of an exclusive collection in the United States of America, First Historic African American, 44th President Barack Obama. (Courtesy of AJ Brown, Daniels God-Niece).

The life of Johnny Daniels was a historical journey. Decades of teaching were dedicated to many. Daniels is known as the master instructor for being the only Original Highwayman to bridge both generations by uniquely mentoring five of his closest friends as 2nd Generation Highwaymen Artists.
Johnny's vision honored the Highwaymen tradition, his black art teacher Zanobia Jefferson, and the prominent white artist A.E. Backus. Backus's influence is reflected in Johnny's paintings. Daniels was also influenced by his friend Livingston "Castro" Roberts and admired the work of Harold Newton and Alfred Hair.

Johnny Daniels, the legend, the Highwaymen Heritage Trail, City of Fort Pierce:

As one of the leaders, a milestone was marked in 1970 for the young artists when Alfred Hair was tragically shot and killed at age 29. In mourning his death, some stopped painting. However, Johnny was one of many who continued to earn his living through painting for over forty years. The legend Johnny Daniels helped make Highwaymen Art what it is today!

Johnny Lee Daniels and the 2nd Generation: A man of good character, Johnny Daniels helped several 2nd Generation members earn their living in the art world. Daniels instructed twin brothers Jimmy and Johnny Stovall and Kelvin Hair; their paintings yield a rewarding income. Daniels opened the Highwaymen Art Gallery at the Arcade building on US One and Orange Avenue in Fort Pierce, Florida. Johnny Daniels partnered with Johnny Stovall and Kelvin Hair and forever established their careers as members of the 2nd Generation through his Original Highwaymen status and seniority.

Johnny left the US One gallery to open a second gallery at 1725 Okeechobee Road with his brother, Original Hall of Fame Willie Daniels, a veteran painter of 40 years. However, they soon severed business ties. Johnny exclusively mentored AJ Brown, the only female, and made her his last business partner.

A friendship as close as kin, Daniels considered his partner AJ Brown as family. Daniels then taught Richard Edwards, a childhood friend of Kelvin, who was the last to receive his teachings.

It is noted that Jimmy Stovall pursued his art career as an Original Highwayman.

As noted by Highwaymen scholar James Gibson, AJ Brown and Kelvin Hair began to paint simultaneously during the mid-2000s.

It is noted that 2nd Generation Ray McLendon observed Daniels's painting techniques in the Okeechobee Road Highwaymen Art Gallery. Daniels, tips, and pointers helped make McLendon a confident artist.

Johnny Lee Daniels generously handed down his heritage for nearly a decade before the unofficial social group would historically unify as an official organization. Like AE Backus, Harold Newton, and Alfred Hair, their visions were all the same. The icons were well within their rights to leave a legacy that helped make the Highwaymen the legends they are today. Johnny Daniels witnessed his unique group become members of "Florida Highwaymen 2nd Generation."

During the summer of May 2009-2011, the Originals and the 2nd Generation united for the first time and formed the first historical 501(c) 3 organization! Florida Highwaymen Artist and History Center Inc. was the name given by James Gibson. Mary Ann Carroll became the first elected female Highwayman president of the group.

Historically, the Highwaymen group formed as the Originals and the 2nd Generation over decades. Both generations were board members and attended meetings.

The Originals appointed several members of Johnny's essential group as official officers.
Female AJ Brown was officially appointed the first Highwaymen secretary. R.L. Lewis renounced the elected position, delegated to AJ Brown. Brown was also a member of the by-laws committee of four, Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker, Jimmy Stovall, and Lillie Knight. Kelvin Hair was the spokesman for the group.

These historic facts marked a significant era in time when these relevant artists established their painting history and held appointed official offices. The 2nd Generation members have earned their privileges over the years and were sealed with the ultimate death of an Original elite member, Johnny Daniels.

The Hall of Fame, Original Florida Highwaymen Artist Johnny Lee Daniels died on May 26, 2009, after both generations officially unified as a 501(c)3. His death was a tragic loss. 2019 marked fifty years of service and documented many contributions to Florida's history for the legendary Johnny Lee Daniels.

In the summer of 2011, the 2nd 501(c)3 organization was formed by the Highwaymen artist group. Under the new leadership of Carnell "Pete" Smith and his sister, Doretha Hair, selective 2nd Generation members were not allowed to attend organization meetings, as they had during the first 2009, 501(c)3. The history of Original Highwaymen Johnny Daniels was marginalized and excluded selected voices of the Johnny Daniels crew, mainly female AJ Brown.

In 2012, Fort Pierce City Hall and Florida Humanities Council invested thousands of grant funds in the history of the Highwaymen. Created throughout the city were the Highwaymen Heritage Trail and Fort Pierce Tours, by Elizabeth "Libby" Woodruff as manager and overseer. The Highwaymen website was visited from around the world but was eventually closed by Fort Pierce City Hall Manager Caletta Scott, who is family to Doretha Hair. Highlighted on the grave-site monument trail is Hall of Fame Johnny Daniels, his prominent crew of artists, as part of the Highwaymen history.  

Established in 1973, the "Second Generation Movement" began with family member Roy McLendon Jr. Several members were born during the historical era of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. Just as the Original icons started with friends and family, the same 1950s tradition is found in the Highwaymen Historic 2nd Generation. Makeshift assembly-line easels, back-yard studios, wet paint on Masonite, and selling from the car trunk are all handed-down traditions still in use.
"The 2nd Generation started as one group of relatives and friends conserving a 1950s heritage and tradition of the Original Highwaymen. The way they initially formed as a group that held seniority in the highest regard, all came to be known and respected under one name. "The 2nd Generation were hand-picked by a member of the Hall of Fame Original Florida Highwaymen, the scholars themselves."  Unfortunately, after the death of mentor and friend Johnny Daniels, 2nd Generation Kelvin Hair, with no authority, launched his campaign to change tradition and separate the 2nd Generation by reclassing each member with labels, an egregious act with which AJ Brown disagrees. Over the last two years, Kelvin informed Brown she could not participate in art shows he manages.

Thank you, America, for treating all our generations as worthy!

Johnny Daniels, an American pioneer, passed on May 26, 2009. He is buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Fort Pierce, Florida. Block 1000, Avenue L Section 2-N; among several iconic Highwaymen. AJ Brown was authorized by his beneficiary Ms. Curley Daniels and commissioned by the manager of Cultural Affairs, Ms. Jody Bonet, to construct his grave-site monument. On January 26, 2010, Ms. Daniels named AJ Brown as God-family.

It was August 2011 when heirs named AJ Brown, legal representative and spokesperson of Daniel's art estate, proceeds benefits heirs. Highwaymen dealers, art councils, the state of Florida, educational institutions, museums, and alike are welcome to continue representing the Original Hall of Fame, Florida Highwaymen Johnny Daniels, as they had during his respected living years and for over four decades.

The unique Florida Highwaymen persisted through a segregated era when all odds were against them.
Only a few may claim the status of honor, the Original or the 2nd Generation Highwaymen.

Thank you, America!

Gallery Art

Johnny Lee Daniels