Willie Reagan: (1939 - )
Born:Lake Park, Florida
Willie Reagan was born in Lake Park, Palm Beach County he had one brother and nine sisters. The family moved to Gifford, Florida when he was five years old. Willie became interested in art and wood working while attending high school in Gifford. Willie was also a good athlete at Gifford high school and was awarded a football scholarship to Florida A&M where he earned his bachelor's degree in art education in 1963. Shortly after college he was hired to teach in Savannah, Georgia. He taught for one year then was drated into the army. In 1965 he married Don Delora; they have been together ever since.
Willie started painting Florida landscapes in 1966 after he left the army. Harold Newton, who was a little older, inspired Willie to paint years ago when he was a paperboy. Willie use to see Harold painintg as he drove by him on his bike while delivering papers. Willie explains, “Harold put a board up on the side of his house and would paint with a palette knife. I never saw him use a brush. Then he’d sell them for $20-$25, which was a lot of money at that time.” Willie says that Harold Newton was his only Highwayman teacher. I learned more from watching Harold than I learned in school says Willie.
Willie was making $300 to $400 a week selling his paintings when he got a call asking if he wanted to teach in Gifford. He wasn’t sure he wanted to give up his life as a painter so he asked his mother for advice. She thought he should teach since his college education prepared him for this line of work, but she emphasized that the decision was his. He gave up painting and started teaching once again. He taught at Gifford High School for two years, Vero Beach High School for three years, the Learning Center with eigth and ninth graders for sixteen years and then he worked 6th graders in middle school for seven years. As a teacher, he was a strong disciplinarian.
After retiring from teaching in 1995, he slowly returned to landscape painting. Once the Highwaymen had been named and their landscapes became popular again, he exhibited his work—about ten paintings—and sold all but one in two hours. It was then he thought, “It’s time to seriously get back to painting.” But he still took his time doing so.
Willie and Don have lived in the same house in Vero Beach for over forty years and have two children, Darrin and Joy.
Willie Reagan Biography information: obtained from website thehighwaymentrail.com. This website is a fantastic reference to learn about the 26 Florida Highwaymen artists and their importance to Florida's history.