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"The Florida Cracker Storyteller"

Nelson E. Bailey (born January 12, 1943) is a County Judge in the vast agriculture producing area of western Palm Beach County. He grew up in the small town of Tavares in central Florida where his father was a beekeeper, meaning a commercial honey producer. As a child and young man Nelson spent much time with his father on the lands of ranchers, farmers and grove owners throughout central Florida.

Prior to becoming a County Judge, Nelson was an attorney with the Florida Department of Agriculture, then an Assistant Attorney General of Florida, and then a criminal defense lawyer in private practice for 22 years in West Palm Beach. As a lawyer for the state and in private practice, he handled criminal cases at every level of the state and federal trial and appellate courts: from County Courts to the United States Supreme Court.

Nelson has a passion for Florida History and for Storytelling. He is the only person listed as a teller of exclusively Florida tales in the Directory of American Storytellers. In his performances as a "Florida Cracker Storyteller" of the late 1800’s, he shares his knowledge of the state's unique and largely forgotten history and cultural heritage.

He usually tells his stories while mounted on his Florida Cracker Horse, a rare and endangered breed of horse with Spanish bloodlines that go back nearly five hundred years in Florida -- and while accompanied by "Cooter," his Florida Cur cowdog, a working dog used to gather and hold herds of cattle.

Nelson’s Florida stories weave together a multicolored quilt of Florida history. He tells stories of Native-American mound builders prior to the 1500’s; of Spanish explorers, settlers, and ranchers in the 1500 and 1600’s; of Seminole traditions and of the Black Seminoles of the 1700 and 1800’s; and finally, of Florida’s White, Black, Hispanic, and Native American "cowhunters." He tells of the cowhunters’ practices in the 1800’s and today. (You call them "cowboys" out West; in the Deep South they have always been and still are called "cowhunters.") Not only does Nelson talk about cowhunter ways, he demonstrates some of them with his horse, cow whip, and dog. Along the way he offers some surprising insights into Florida’s forgotten role in American history.

Nelson and his horse have traveled over much of the land about which he talks, and they have ridden alongside and "cow hunted" with the descendants of many of the Florida folks -- Cracker, Spanish, Black, and Seminole -- of whom he speaks.

He offers a view of the land and of its people that is steeped in the real history of this place we call Florida.

Nelson and his wife Carol live on their small ranch in Loxahatchee, a rural community in western Palm Beach County. He presides over court in a branch courthouse located in western Palm Beach County right in the heart of South Florida's most productive sugarcane, rice and vegetable producing farmlands.

Carol and Nelson