When Freddie Warmack ran for office in Newberry, he didn’t have to put up a bunch of campaign signs around town.
Instead, Warmack connected directly with his fellow citizens and was voted in as Newberry’s first African American mayor in 1984 after serving on the city commission for a decade.
That service, along with his role of city manager and 13 years of helping low-income people become self-sufficient as a member of the Central Florida Community Action Agency, earned Warmack the first-ever posthumous induction into the 100 Black Men of Greater Gainesville on Thursday night.
The event, held at the Freddie Warmack Center in Newberry was attended by 75 friends, family members, and elected officials past and present from Newberry and Alachua County.
Warmack passed away in 2019 at the age of 87 but continues to be celebrated by the community he served. He is credited with establishing the Newberry Fire Department in 1981, creating the Newberry Historic District, purchasing and installing the veteran’s memorial monument in 1988, and presiding over the construction of Newberry City Hall in 1992.
Monday’s event featured speeches by friends and family members, a proclamation by current Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe, an induction ceremony and the unveiling of a painting of Warmack by his grandson, Alpatrick McCleary.
“If he was here, he would be proud,” said Jamar Hebert, president of the Gainesville chapter of 100 Black Men.
Pastor Lewis King delivered the invocation and then Warmack’s daughter Cynthia Loretta Warmack spoke about her father, praising his accomplishments, compassion and caring for others.
“He loved Newberry and in return the city embraced him,” she said, recalling that on the day the Newberry Fire Department officially opened her father “cut the ribbon with a smile that would brighten the sky.”
Pastor Lewis, Warmack’s son-in-law, then spoke about Warmack’s life in politics and said he lived out Luke 12:28: “To whom much is given, much is required.”
“One thing I can say about Freddie Warmack is he took time as an elected official to take care of the needs of the city, the needs of the people,” said King, who served on the Newberry Planning and Zoning Board.
King said Warmack would apply for grants to have houses remodeled, and it was those types of actions that the community appreciated.
“He talked to everybody,” King said. “Everywhere he went there was somebody who knew him, that appreciated the work he did.”
After Warmack retired from serving the city, King said he shared with Warmack that the city commission was considering giving away the fire department to the county.
“They ain’t giving my fire department,” Warmack told him—before showing up at the next meeting to defend it.
King said the fire department might not have stayed in the city’s control without Warmack’s persistent civic engagement, even after he was no longer mayor.
“Let’s pray that others will come after him and stand on his shoulders,” King said.
Warmack’s grandson, James Mayberry, then came to the podium and invited family members and former city officials to join him on stage.
“It takes a village,” he said as they stood flanked on each side of Mayberry.
“He would be proud,” Mayberry said, describing his grandfather as a diplomatic man who loved sports, fishing and most of all people. “He was a people person.”
Mayberry said he was so proud when they named the park after his grandfather. He said people stop him in grocery stores and ask him if he knew Freddie Warmack and they are happy to learn that he is his grandson.
“I see the legacy that he has left behind,” Mayberry said.
Mayor Marlowe said he wished he had known Warmack better, but after hearing all of the stories by friends and family, he felt that he did.
Because the Newberry Fire Department moved into its building on June 10, 1981, Marlowe read a proclamation for that same date in honor of Warmack.
“Forty years later, the City of Newberry Fire Department is the pride and joy not just of the city, but of Alachua County,” Marlowe said.
In recognition of Warmack’s “honor, dignity and integrity,” Marlowe proclaimed June 10 “Freddie Warmack Sr. Day “to recognize and thank him for his years of dedicated service to the residents of this city and as a patriarch of this community.”
Several members of the 100 Black Men of Greater Gainesville then joined Hebert on the stage as he made Warmack’s membership into the organization official.
Hebert explained that the group is committed to making a meaningful difference in the communities they serve through education, health and wellness, mentoring and financial empowerment through partnership with social and professional organizations.
“This has never been done before,” Hebert said about the posthumous induction. He then read the words written on Warmack’s posthumous membership certificate.
Another of Warmack’s grandsons, Alpatrick McCleary, then took the stage to introduce the portrait Marlowe commissioned him to paint for Newberry’s Freddie Warmack Center.
McCleary thanked God for giving him the ability to create art and said he hoped the community would enjoy the painting he was about to unveil.
McCleary and Hebert then removed the black cloth that covered the portrait of Warmack, and the crowd reacted in gasps of joy and started clapping in celebration, remarking how beautiful the piece turned out.
“I got a picture from my auntie and I decided to capture him the best I could,” McCleary said.