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The return of the Highwaymen

Get a brush with history when the famed Highwaymen painters exhibit and sell their vibrant works in Pompano Beach.

Seven of the self-taught, African-American painters from Fort Pierce will set up inside the historic Sample-McDougald House on Friday and Saturday, sponsored by the Pompano Beach Historical Society.

The men will show and sell more than 100 of their iconic Florida landscapes, from the signature royal poinciana to Everglades sunsets and moonlit beaches. The 26 artists, including one woman, Mary Ann Carroll, were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004. Nine have died.

The vivid, colorful paintings hang in homes across America, as well as in museums, city halls and even the White House.

"I have three paintings in the White House," says James Gibson, 75, who returns again after last year's inaugural event benefiting the Pompano Beach Historical Society. "I have 37 paintings on loan in the governor's mansion and R.A. Gray Building in Tallahassee, too."

Gibson joins Carnell Smith; Al Black; Doretha Hair, widow of founder Alfred Hair; Charles Walker; John Maynor; and Willie Reagan for a preview reception at 5:30 Friday. Tickets cost $50.

"I really enjoy the people down there, from Fort Lauderdale and Pompano, Boca Raton and Delray Beach. They are very special, and I love to talk to them about my paintings," Gibson says. "They take the time to look at the paintings and enjoy them. I love that."

The artists got their nickname because they sold quickly painted works, sometimes still wet, from the trunks of their cars along U.S. Highway 1 in the 1950s and '60s. They used painting to escape the tomato fields and orange groves during segregation.

Both events also benefit preservation efforts for the 4,500-square-foot pioneer homestead built in 1916, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2001, the home was moved from Dixie Highway to its current spot on 10th Street.

When in South Florida, Gibson visits Coconut Grove to paint the area's majestic royal poincianas, the Highwaymen's signature subject. But his true love is seascapes.

"You have to paint what the people want. When I'm down there, I like to paint the Lighthouse Point lighthouse," Gibson says from his Fort Pierce home. "It's where it's sitting that is so beautiful. It's peaceful. You can get your thoughts together there. This time of year, you have such brilliant sunsets, you get real good color."

Friday's preview party admission is $50 and Saturday's show, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is $5, at Sample-McDougald House, 450 NE 10th St., in Pompano Beach. Call 954-292-8040 or go to

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