Herbert Franklin Darby, affectionately referred to as “Big Darby” by his family, died peacefully at his home in Lake City, Florida, April 8, 2020. He was 101 years old. Mr. Darby, a third generation Floridian, was born February 15, 1919 - the second son of Susan Matilda “Tillie” Barefoot Darby and Harry Franklin Darby. He had seven brothers and sisters: Marguerite, Olcott, Claire, Jeanette, Dwight, Edgar and Betty. All are deceased with the exception of his sister, Betty Evans, who resides in South Carolina.
His father, Harry Darby, was the Seaboard Railway Station Master in Olustee, Florida, where Herbert spent his first 6 years. His earliest memories were happy ones. The family lived in a modest home, his father drove a Model T Ford, milk was stored in an icebox, oil lamps offered soft, evening light and Ocean Pond was a popular place to swim.
Looking for a better opportunity to provide for his large family, Harry Darby moved the family to Lake City in 1925 where he established a real estate agency (Darby and Phillips). The family moved into a much larger home only to be forced to leave two years later when Harry passed away. Herbert’s mother, Tillie, never remarried, raised all her children alone, never drove a car and lived to be 101.
Shortly after the death of Harry Darby, the United States was plunged into what is now characterized as the Great Depression. While there were very few job opportunities in Lake City during Herbert’s childhood, he helped support his family by selling peanuts, shining shoes, delivering newspapers and working as a stock boy in the local grocery store. On the southeast corner of the newly renovated Blanche Hotel a sign once read, “Herbert Darby, Shoe Shine”. When he was twelve years old, Mr. Max Brown, former President of the State Exchange Bank, helped him establish credit by loaning him money to purchase a bicycle he needed to deliver newspapers. Mr. Brown continued to serve as a great mentor in Herbert’s early years.
During high school, Herbert waited tables after class and in the evening at the Green Derby Restaurant. The bus station was adjacent to the Green Derby and buses would stop there at scheduled times during the day and night. While on night duty, when he was not serving customers, he would do his homework, then sleep on a cot in the back of the restaurant until the following day when he would leave work in time to shower and dress for school. Later in life, when his children would express concern that he was robbed of his boyhood, he would always say, “Don’t feel sorry for me. Those early years helped establish a work ethic that has carried me through life. This has served me well.”
Herbert graduated from Columbia High School in 1937 and enrolled at the University of Florida. To pay for his schooling, he managed a restaurant in Gainesville. Once again, with the help of Mr. Max Brown, he soon acquired ownership. Many Lake City boys worked at the restaurant in exchange for meals.
In 1941, young Darby left college and worked in a defense plant in Lebanon, Tennessee. In 1942, he was drafted into the Army Air Corps and during World War II served in General MacArthur’s campaign in the South Pacific Theatre. He was stationed in Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines, and Tokyo, Japan, before his discharge from the service in March, 1946.
After his military service, Darby returned to college to complete his undergraduate studies. While in school, he met a Lake City girl, Mary Ann Mathis, who was home for the summer from Stephens College. They were married December 21st, 1946, and remained married for 69 years until his wife’s death in 2016. Following her death, during many of his reflective moments, he would say his God and Ann Darby have always been at the center of his life.
In 1947, Darby earned a BS in Finance and immediately enrolled in the University of Florida School of Law. He was a member of Phi Delta Phi International Legal Fraternity and served on the executive committee of the John Marshall Bar Association University of Florida College of Law.
After receiving his law degree in 1949, Darby opened an office over the People’s Hardware Building in downtown Lake City where he practiced law for the next 11 years. In 1961, he and Wallace Jopling, who later became a Circuit Judge, formed a partnership and moved the practice to the Brown Home on Lake Desota. His long career afforded him the opportunity to work with many very talented legal minds. Wallace Jopling, Austin Peele, Martin Page, Rod Bowdoin and Blair Payne were his law partners. Alva Duncan, Skip Manesco, Todd Kennon, Duane Thomas, Jill Conti, Theresa Morgan, Josh Crapps, Richard Stadler and Bonnie Green were also Associates with the Firm. Although he represented a wide variety of client’s needs, Darby’s expertise was in the area of real property, probate and municipal law. Darby would often share, “All I ever wanted to do was practice law”. He always felt his greatest legal accomplishment was negotiating the sale of The First National Bank of Lake City to NCNB of North Carolina. This was the first bank sold under a new law passed by the Legislature allowing interstate banking in the state of Florida.
Mr. Darby was civic-minded throughout his adult life. He was a past president of the Jaycees, the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club where he was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow, and the Lake City Country Club. He also served as chairman of the board of the First United Methodist Church and the Columbia County American Red Cross. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge, the American Legion, the Elks Club and the University of Florida Gator Booster Club and he and his wife established the Herbert F. and Ann M. Darby Endowed Scholarship with the Florida Gateway College Foundation. In addition to his participation in community affairs, he also served in the financial interest of Lake City as a member of the Board of Directors of the First National Bank and the Barnett Bank. In the legal profession, Darby served as vice president of the third Judicial Circuit Bar Association, the Florida Bar Board of Governors, and the Administrative Law Committee. He was the interim mayor of Lake City in 1974. In addition to his private practice, he served as City Attorney for 63 years.
Mr. Darby was recognized on multiple fronts for his service to his community and his profession. In 1978 he received the Lake City Reporter “Jimmy Award” for outstanding oratory performance. He was recognized by the League of Cities and the Florida Municipal Attorneys’ Association for his long time membership and was honored by the Third Circuit Bar Association for 50 years of service. The City of Lake City held a “Herbert F. Darby Day” in February, 2006, and Mr. and Mrs. Darby were the Grand Marshals of the Olustee Festival Parade in 2011. In 2014, the City named the Pavilion at Wilson Park in his honor. On Arbor Day in 2015, the City again recognized Herbert Darby and his wife, Ann, by planting a tree in their honor. When Darby stepped down as the City Attorney in 2016, Lake City hosted a retirement reception at the First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, thanking him for 63 years of service to his community.
Darby’s contribution to the community and his family was selfless and often undisclosed. A scripture that portrays his life is Matthew 6:3-4; “But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you”.
Herbert Darby is predeceased by his wife of 69 years, Mary Ann Mathis Darby, his parents, and seven brothers and sisters. He is survived by his sister, Betty Evans; his three children, Susan Darby Parrish ( Ken Dixner), Gainesville, Florida; Michael Mathis Darby ( Donna Darby), Lake City, Florida; and Patricia Ann “Patti” Darby Minton (Gary Minton) of Valdosta, Georgia; seven grandchildren, James Moorman “J.” Parrish ( Sarah McKune), Amanda Parrish Reed (Cole Reed), Gainesville, Florida; Mercer “Darby” Parrish, Gainesville, Florida; Marianne Mackey Wright, Maryville, Tennessee; Marlow Mathis Wright, Valdosta, Georgia; Caitlin McCallister Darby ( Nicholas “Nick” Colangelo), Orlando, Florida; and Jonathan Michael “Jon” Darby ( Alex Poulose), Washington, D.C.; five great grandchildren; Elizabeth Parrish Reed, Montgomery Parrish Reed, Matilda McKune Parrish, James McKune Parrish and Henry McKune Parrish ( Gainesville, Florida). His nieces, nephews and cousins are too numerous to name individually.
Mr. Darby and his family would especially like to recognize and thank his legal assistant, Loretta Steinmann, as well as Edith Tomlin, Robert Bradley, Adamae Bradley, Vicky and Seville Simmons, Blaine Wheeler, the Lillie Mae Godbolt Family, Deborah Robinson and RemyAnn Jeffers – All who were huge blessings in his life.
Because of the coronavirus and the restrictions imposed on citizens, private family graveside services were held at Memorial Cemetery in Lake City where he was buried beside his beloved wife, Mary Ann Mathis Darby.
Had there been a funeral, Mr. Darby requested that Blair Payne, his former law partner, deliver the eulogy. He told Mr. Payne on numerous occasions to simply say, “I lived – I died - and I practiced law in between”. Mr. Darby had also requested the following people serve as his OFFICIAL PALLBEARERS:
J. Parrish, grandson; Darby Parrish, grandson; Jon Darby, grandson; Cole Reed, grandson-in-law; Warren Blanchard, nephew; Lee Weaver, nephew; Bob Coggin, nephew.
Lewis Archer, Michael Collins, Jim Combs, Clinton F. “Junior Dicks, N. Terry Dicks, H. Vernon Douglas, Marlin Feagle, Eugene Jefferson, Wendell Johnson, Andy Moore, Philip Moses, Jr.,
Blair Payne, Arky Rogers, Stephen Smith, Gordon Summers, Herbert Thomas, George Ward, Bill Wheeler, Blaine Wheeler, Brad Wheeler, Stephen Witt.
PALLBEARERS IN ABSENTIA:
Rod Bowdoin, Wallace Jopling, Lou Landrum, Jim Moore, Philip Moses Sr., Hayes Odom, Austin Peele, Powell Summers.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the First United Methodist Church, 973 South Marion Avenue, Lake City, Florida 32055 where he and his wife were lifetime members.
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