Becalmed In The Mullet Latitudes

Al Burt was born in 1927 and died in Jacksonville in 2008.  Many people don't think of Al when discussing famous Florida authors, but maybe they should.

Al graduated from the University of Florida School of Journalism in 1949, and spent 45 years working as a reporter and columnist for the Miami Herald.  He reported from Washington to Latin America and the Caribbean and throughout Florida.

Florida Author Al Burt

In 1965 he was covering civil war in the Dominican Republic, and was almost killed by friendly fire in a tragic incident.  He and a Miami Herald photographer were in a taxi in Santo Domingo when they came upon a U.S. Marine checkpoint.

Nobody knows for sure why, but the Marines felt threatened and fired rifles and machine guns at the taxi.

Burt and the photographer were badly injured.  The Marines immediately realized their mistake and rushed both of them to Washington D.C. for medical care and extensive convalescence, thereby saving one of the best of future Florida authors.

Burt eventually returned to work, but had to walk with the aid of a cane.

In 1974, Burt and his wife, Gloria, moved from Miami to Melrose, a small community east of Gainesville.  He spent the following years roaming Florida, writing columns for the Herald about the people he met and the things he saw.  These years were among his most productive as a writer and earned him a permanent place as one of our favorite Florida authors.

His books celebrate the Old Florida, the vanishing places and people that make Florida special, and the Florida Crackers that live there.

In "Becalmed In The Mullet Latitudes" Al divides Florida into "Seven Little Floridas". Each little Florida is different and Al describes how.  The map below is from this book.  For example, the west Florida panhandle he calls "Florabama", and it is culturally more like Alabama than the rest of Florida.

North Central and Northeast Florida he calls "Florgia". It is culturally more like Georgia than the rest of Florida.

Each "little Florida" has its own unique qualities, and he describes those qualities in loving detail.

He was not only an excellent reporter, but a wonderful writer. He had a way of interviewing people that brought out their true nature. His gift was letting their words speak for themselves, and keeping himself out of the story.

In addition to his thousands of columns and news reports, he wrote several wonderful books with Florida themes.  He also won many journalism awards, including the prestigious Ernie Pyle Award for human interest writing.


Here is a listing of some of Al's Florida books:

  • (1974) Florida: A Place In The Sun.

  • (1984) Becalmed In The Mullet Latitudes. This is one of my favorite Florida books. Burt visits places that are still very much Old Florida and interviews people. He also visits places that have changed and interviews people who have lived through the changes. The irony in many of his stories is delicious. For example, read "The Father Of The Sanibel Bridge".

  • (1997) Al Burt's Florida.

  • (1999) The Tropic Of Cracker

    Most of Al's books are available at this direct link: Al Burt At

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