Author Harvey Oyer III has been named Florida Distinguished Author for his trilogy of children’s books.
Below, a mugshot of Oyer.
By Ron Hayes
A fifth-generation Floridian, former chairman of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County and prolific chronicler of this area’s pioneers, Harvey Oyer III knows Florida well.
But even he had never heard of the Florida Distinguished Author award, until he won it.
Oyer has been named the Distinguished Florida Author for 2013 by Florida House, a nonprofit, privately funded “embassy” situated across from the U.S. Supreme Court on Washington’s Capitol Hill.
The education committee, which also honors the visual arts, has named sea life painter Guy Harvey this year’s Distinguished Artist. Both will be honored during a three-day celebration culminating May 16 with a dinner in the Grand Hall of the Library of Congress.
“I didn’t know anything about it until they notified me,” Oyer said, “There are many great authors associated with Florida — Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings — but if you notice the ones they’ve [Florida House] selected in the past, they tend to be writers who not only lived here, but actually write about Florida. I’m deeply honored.”
Past recipients include Bob Beatty, Carlton W. Ward Jr. and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas.
Oyer’s great-great grandparents, Hannibal and Margretta Pierce, arrived in southeast Florida in 1872. Their daughter, Lillie Pierce Voss, was Oyer’s great-grandmother, the first white child born between Jupiter and Miami. A plaque across from the Marriott Hotel in Delray Beach marks the approximate place of her birth in August 1876.
And Lillie’s brother — Oyer’s great-grand-uncle — stars in The Adventures of Charlie Pierce, a trilogy of children’s books that celebrate his family’s Florida history, and for which Florida House now celebrates him.
“This is the 40th anniversary of Florida House and the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s landing, so we wanted to honor someone who really celebrated our history,” said Susan Clemons, another fifth-generation Floridian and a board member of Florida House, who nominated Oyer. “We’ve never had a children’s author before, and Harvey’s a wonderful person who’s worked so hard to celebrate our state.”
About 85,000 students throughout South Florida now read the Charlie Pierce series as part of their fourth-grade history classes.
“A lot people deserve the credit,” Oyer said. “I wrote the books, but the school districts had to want them, and sponsors like Wells Fargo and the Everglades Foundation and others had to pay for them. I feel very fortunate.”