In the National Spotlight
Since the 1890s, when Henry Flagler drew the attention of high society to Palm Beach, south Florida has been in the limelight from time to time; the news was rarely good.
• In 1950 U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver's Crime Investigating Committee looked into mob influence in several areas of Florida, including Palm Beach County; the hearings were televised live nationwide.
• When Curtis E. Chillingworth (1896–1955) was appointed circuit judge at age 26, he was the youngest person in Florida’s history to fill that role. His father, Charles, was the first municipal attorney in West Palm Beach; his grandfather, Richard, was West Palm Beach’s fifth mayor. After 32 years on the bench, on June 15, 1955, Chillingworth and his wife, Marjorie, were abducted, taken to sea, and dumped overboard. Joseph Peel, Jr., a West Palm Beach municipal judge whom Chillingworth was investigating, had hired George “Bobby” Lincoln and Floyd “Lucky” Holzapfel to commit the murders. Although the killers were overheard discussing the crime a week later, it took six years to convict them.
• Although the Kennedy family had kept a residence in Palm Beach since the 1930s, John F. Kennedy’s election to the presidency in 1960 brought the media and the Secret Service to visit as well when the First Family retreated to the “Winter White House.” The President spent the last weekend of his life in Palm Beach, November 16-17, 1963. He had accepted an invitation from First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach to attend, with his wife, a Christmas music program on December 4; he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22. The Rev. Jess Moody of First Baptist Church later said, “That day, when we had all those people there, we put black drapes over those two seats. Although it was overflowing with people, those two seats were left vacant in appreciation for our president.”
• In 1973 Palm Beach County won a national award for the best land-use plan in the nation.
• The Marjorie Merriweather Post estate, Mar-a-Lago, was always a showplace, and a place for shows, until her death in1973. The federal government held it until 1980, when the maintenance proved too costly. Donald Trump purchased it in 1985 for a private club.