The Driving Force Behind the Highwaymen
Alfred Warner Hair was the driving force behind the artists dubbed “The Highwaymen.” Killed in a barroom fight at the age of
29 nearly 50 years ago, he has left his mark with the thousands of paintings he left behind and a one-of-a-kind artistic legacy.
His work will be explored at an exhibition at A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery in Fort Pierce from Jan. 8 through Feb. 16.
BY CATHERINE ENNS GRIGAS
It has been nearly 50 years since a young black man
was shot and later died on a hot August night in
a modest little bar on Avenue D in Fort Pierce. He
might have been forgotten, except that he left a
curious legacy that was to live on long after his death.
Alfred Hair was an artist, and his paintings of turquoise
seas, peach clouds and scarlet royal poinciana
trees, along with the thousands more created by his
friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances, became
the signature works of the 26 African-American artists
who were later called the Florida Highwaymen.
Hair’s death at age 29 on Aug. 9, 1970, shook the
community of Fort Pierce. The following day, the front
page of The News Tribune was emblazoned with a headline
that read, “Shot Down in Fort Pierce: Well Known
Artist Alfred Hair Slain.”
Accounts of what happened the night he died varied.
The newspaper’s story of the event, which took
place at a popular hangout called Eddie’s Place (also
known as Eddie’s Drive Inn), stated that a migrant
grove worker named Julius Funderburk “hit a man
named Castro Roberts, then hit Hair. Hair reportedly
ran out of the building, police said, and Funderburk
chased him into the street and shot him ... Hair apparently
died of two gunshot wounds.” Funderburk was
later convicted of second-degree murder and served >>