Portrait from the 1861 Florida Secession Convention composite.
It has become customary the past four years to set aside the year's final posting to an especially strange named figure, and this year's honoree is certainly worthy of the title of 'Strangest Name of the Year". Following in the stead of such odd name luminaries like Peru Italian Blackerby Ping and Uno Sylvanus Augustus Heggblom, Florida lawyer Summerfield Massilon Glenn Gary lucked into receiving a real whopper of a name, and his inclusion here on the site rests on service as Marion County's delegate to the Florida Secession Convention of 1861.
A native of South Carolina, Summerfield M.G. Gary was born Cokesbury, Greenwood County on October 10, 1826, being the son of Dr. Thomas Reeder and Mary (Porter) Gary. A distinguished figure in his own right, Thomas R. Gary (1802-1852) served several terms in the South Carolina legislature and for a time held the post of treasurer of the Greenville and Columbia Railroad. Recorded by most period sources under the initials S.M.G. Gary, Summerfield M.G. Gary's early education occurred in his hometown of Cokesbury, attending the Methodist Home Conference School. He would later enroll at the South Carolina at Columbia, and following his graduation in 1848 began the study of law under future U.S. Senator James Chesnut Jr. (1815-1885).
Admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1851, Gary married a short while later to Frances "Fannie" Rosa Gary (ca. 1834-1914). The couple would have at least five children, Thomas R. (1853-1912), Maud Witherspoon (1859-1933), S.M.G. Jr. (1861-1873), Louella Victoria (1875-1954) and William Theodore (1876-1959). In 1855 Gary and his wife removed to Ocala, Florida, where they would reside for the remainder of their lives. Here Gary established a law practice that would see him advance to the front rank of Ocala public life, and in the succeeding years was acknowledged as a man of noble character, and that:
"Like a towering cliff he caught the rays of the sun of progress before its beams could reach the horizon of common minds."In 1860 Gary was selected as one of Marion County's delegates to the Florida Secession Convention, and in January 1861 traveled to Tallahassee to begin service. During the convention proceedings he was named to the committees on Communications from South Carolina, the Judiciary, Militia and Internal Police, and Schools and Colleges. Following Florida's entrance into the Civil War Gary entered into the Confederate Army and for a year's duration was a captain in a local infantry unit. After being wounded Gary was transferred to a cavalry unit and served as an aide de camp to his younger brother, Brigadier General Martin Witherspoon Gary (1831-1881) until war's conclusion.
At the time of his discharge from service S.M.G. Gary had attained the rank of Colonel and following his return to Ocala returned to practicing law. Sources of the time denote Gary as "Intendent" of Ocala in 1867 and is referred to as the mayor of that city prior to its incorporation the following year. Gary's later years saw him become an early advocate for the planting of citrus trees for profit in Florida, and
"Through his persistent agitation on the subject many citizens were led to engage in this business, which he lived to see the principle industry of his state."Two years prior to his death S.M.G. Gary began construction on the three-story Gary building in Ocala, a building that would later become home to both a hardware and five and dime store. This structure replaced an earlier wooden one that had been destroyed by fire and following Gary's death in 1886 passed into the hands of his son William and daughter Maud. After many years of prominence in Ocala, Summerfield Massilon Glenn Gary died in that city on December 20, 1886, at age 60. Memorialized as "generous towards his friends, forgiving to his enemies" and a "scholar, a lawyer, a citizen, and a man", Gary was survived by his wife Fanny and four of his children and was interred at the Evergreen Cemetery in Ocala.