Editor’s note: The Daytona Times is starting a new series, celebrating the life and legacy of men and women who have made significant contributions to their community. Today, we highlight Carlton Scarlett, who recently celebrated his 85th birthday.
BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
“I don’t like a whole lot of highlight,” Carlton Scarlett said as the interview began.
“The things that I’ve done have been for individuals and just for the glory of God. If you do a highlight, we’ll have to go all the way back and come up.”
“Well that’s what I’d like to do Mr. Scarlett,” the reporter replied.
“Well alright,” he answered.
Scarlett was born to Clifford and Rosetta Scarlett in 1929 in Daytona Beach. The youngest of five children, he attended Campbell Elementary and High Schools graduating in 1948.
He is the youngest brother of the late Yvonne Scarlett-Golden, Daytona Beach’s first Black mayor.
An avid athlete, he played both football and basketball during his school days.
“I have always loved calisthenics, walking, I go to the gym,” he said, adding that he still takes part in daily exercise, swimming, jogging, and enjoys a good game of golf.
He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Services from the University of Central Florida and served as a maintenance supervisor at Daytona State College and later as a professor. He also retired from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Department after 30 years of service as a crossing guard.
Scarlett recently was celebrated at Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Daytona Beach on its Golden Harvest Day that showed appreciation to those “Grateful-Outstanding-Loving-Disciples.”
Scarlett, a deacon of 36 years, also has been honored by the Campbell Street High School Class of 1960, Volusia County Government, Daytona State College, and a host of other organizations.
Created work program
Upon graduation from high school in 1948, Scarlett went into the workforce as a waiter and became the district supervisor of five southern states at S&S Cafeteria.
It was there that he was able to help create a work program for students of Campbell High School and Bethune-Cookman College (now University).
This program allowed young people to receive invaluable experience in the workforce. It also gave them time to work in the cafeteria after school and enabled them to earn funds that assisted with tuition and other school needs.
Due to the success of the program in Daytona Beach, it was implemented throughout the service area of S&S Cafeteria in multiple cities and several states.
From segregation to integration
During the time Scarlett worked at S&S Cafeteria, he saw the many changes that occurred because of integration and he shared stories of his time working at the cafeteria during the 1950s and 1960s.
“When you get my age, you have a tendency to forget some things as they go along,” Scarlett said with a chuckle. “Time moves so fast. Things come day by day.”
“I can recall a lot of stories from the civil rights movement,” he began. “At that time I was working at the cafeteria. I can relate to the time we were making the transition, and how I was instrumental in bringing the Blacks from segregation to integration.”
“It was really a situation that you had to consider. One, you could be in the movement and be in the highlights. You could participate in all the sit-ins and what not. Or two, you could be in the part that you have to keep the people together realizing and understanding what was really the most important thing – keeping their families, being able to feed their families and how you’d be able to do both of them.’’
Dealing with ‘verbal slander’
“I had to train people on the job how to understand this. I was trying to teach the fellas that the movement is important, but you’ve still got to feed your families. Another important thing is how you are going to be able to endure the type of verbal slander that you had to take during that time, especially in the field that we were in,’’ Scarlett continued.
“They were waiters so naturally they got all the feedback from the Whites on ‘who they was and what they was’ cause it was really something that Blacks were moving in and the Whites rejected it. You know all about that.
“My job was to keep them and teach them realizing one of the most important things is their family and their children. They still had to feed them during this period, especially the younger men that I was working with. They were going to have to take this slander and stuff that was going to come from the Whites during that period of time. And it was hard for them. And I realized that. But they had to learn how to do both. And that was hard.”
Separate but equal
Scarlett went on to share how he saw the process of integration unfold from the 1950 and 1960s up until present day.
“I saw that period. It took some time after integration. It still took time until everyone accepted the fact that everyone (Blacks and Whites) could come in, sit down and eat together.’’
But the separations remained, Scarlett explained.
“It was just automatic, really. As you see it (integration) develop, people from just human nature, would come in and they’d separate themselves.
When Blacks came into the restaurant, they looked up and if they saw the Black couple over in the corner, that’s where they’d want to sit, but it’s because that’s where they felt comfortable. It comes naturally.
And with the Whites, it was the same way. But it was just because of comfort.
It just took time to for everybody to (integrate). And they haven’t completed that yet.
Even to this day, even if they didn’t think about it, the Blacks will sit in one area and the Whites will sit in one area. You always feel most comfortable among your own.”
Scarlett on Obama
A shift has happened from Scarlett’s days at S&S Cafeteria and he gave his thoughts on the current White House administration, specifically President Barack Obama.
“I feel that he is doing an excellent job,” Scarlett commented. “And the reason I feel that he is doing an excellent job is because I had the time to experience serving people all my life and supervising them. I think that under the pressure he has, he is going under the same hardship that any other Black man would have to go through in a top position in this country even though segregation has been passed for the past 40 years or so. I think he is doing a wonderful job with it.
“I know that some of the Blacks may say he isn’t doing enough for the Black people, but they have to realize he is doing as much as he can under the system that the country has, and he has to go through that process. Those procedures are set up as the system we live by in this country. We know that not everybody that is in leadership or has a position in this country – in the high positions they don’t feel in their heart that everybody is equal.
“This is a country that is made up of financial status, everybody is for making money.
And that is what he has to be confronted with, things that he has to do, providing for the people who are unable to provide for themselves. So he always is going to get criticisms on that. And that’s what I like about him. He gets these criticisms and yet he endures, keeps his calm and still works toward accomplishing his mission.
“It’s not easy. It’s important. It’s hard. He has personal feelings too.”
Advice to future generations
At age 85, Scarlett said his wisdom comes from God.
“I advise people to go to God for their wisdom, knowledge and understanding,” Scarlett shared.
“As a servant, you are a blessing carrier. The Lord has to bless people through others, somebody has to carry that blessing. People don’t realize this. When people come to you and you are a blessing carrier, you have to realize that people come to you for help. And it’s not that you look for it or solicit it, but you are the carrier. It’s God’s calling.”
Scarlett is married to Bobby J. Scarlett. He was married to the late Rosa M. Scarlet for 58 years. He is the proud father of 13 children whom he says all have college degrees and lead successful lives. Each of his grandchildren is either in college or has a college degree as well.
On sister’s legacy
Scarlett was quick to answer that his famous sister was the politician in the family.
In an interview last year, he expressed how proud he was that the Yvonne Scarlett-Golden Cultural and Educational Center had become a reality.
Scarlett and his brother, Donald, are the only living siblings.
“She was a person who was always concerned about people – as a schoolteacher, activist. Her biggest concern was the poor people of this city. She wanted to do something for the people. A person’s status didn’t matter to Yvonne. She would listen to anyone. When she was mayor and a commissioner, anyone could always go to her as an individual. A person’s status didn’t matter,” Carlton Scarlett reflected.