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David Blackard regarded for love of Seminole culture, history

David Blackard was the former director of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and most recently the Education Department’s library program supervisor. Here, he stands next to one of the summer reading program displays in the Hollywood library in 2019. (Photo Damon Scott)

Colleagues of longtime Seminole Tribe employee David M. Blackard say he had a passion for Seminole history and culture that showed both in his life, and through his work at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and the Education Department’s library system. Blackard died of complications from cancer Aug. 11, according to his wife Donna Blackard. The lifelong Pompano Beach resident was 69.

Blackard helped plan and design the museum’s first exhibits in the early 1990s. He would become its first curator under then-executive director Billy L. Cypress and go on to serve as museum director from 1997 to 2005. He was the program supervisor of the tribe’s library system from 2007 until his death.

“I have known David for most of my life and not once did I ever hear David call himself an expert in my people’s history or culture,” Tina Osceola, the director of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, said. “He loved the Seminole and he deeply cared for the Indigenous way of life in the United States. He always saw himself as a public servant to tribes. I don’t know anyone else like him.”

Blackard was also an artist, author and a leader with the Boy Scouts of America.

“The Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Education Department has suffered a great loss in the passing of Mr. David,” Cecelia Vickers, a library assistant who worked with Blackard at the Dorothy Scott Osceola Memorial Library on the Hollywood Reservation, said. “He had a near-perfect photogenic memory with a wealth of information about tribal history that was unmatchable.”

Vickers said preschool children visiting the library loved to listen to Blackard when he hosted story time.

“They were always captivated by how he animated each story, and would tune in attentively to the sound of his rich baritone voice when he sang,” she said.

Darian Cypress-Osceola, who is in the tribe’s Work Experience Program, said Blackard made an impression on her in a short time.

“He was a very kind, caring and knowledgeable person,” Cypress said. “Mr. David got a chance to leave me impressed with his knowledge of the Seminole Tribe. His presence may be gone but the memories we have of him will live forever.”

“He was the best boss I ever had,” Claudia Doctor, who worked for Blackard at the Willie Frank Memorial Library on the Big Cypress Reservation, said. “He was a kind and patient man that knew a lot about tribal traditions. He was like family to me, I will miss him.”

Blackard is survived by his wife Donna and two children, Cat Blackard and Jonathan West.

A memorial service is scheduled for Sept. 3 at 11:15 a.m. at the First Baptist Church-Pompano, located at 138 NE 1st St. in Pompano Beach.

“I encourage people to come – he always had a heart and a love for Indians. An early love,” Donna Blackard said.

In this 1999 photo, Blackard assembles and dresses a mannequin known colloquially as “Bluejay” – now located at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. “Bluejay” was modeled after Bluejay Jumper, the brother of Elgin Jumper. (Courtesy Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)
In a 1994 photo, Blackard, far right, joins Billy L. Cypress (in cowboy hat) to survey an area of land on the Big Cypress Reservation at the beginning of the museum’s creation. (Courtesy Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)
Blackard was an artist who often painted Native Americans. (Courtesy Cecelia Vickers)

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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