Mack Brooks

2012 Florida Folk Heritage Award

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Mack Brooks is a Crestview institution, and a man of many talents. A self-appointed historian of Okaloosa County, he has owned a barbershop on Crestview's Main Street for over 50 years. Musical friends gather at the barbershop on Saturdays to play old-time country music and discuss local history and culture. Mack first learned how to play the fiddle when he was a teenager; his biggest musical influences are Roy Acuff and his own grandfather. While music is a mainstay at the barbershop, Mack's stories serve as the shop's real focal point. His barbershop is an unofficial museum of Okaloosa County history, decorated with numerous black-and-white photographs of local figures and his own paintings. Mack often paints in the barbershop when he isn't cutting hair. The colorful works depict historical buildings and scenes from Okaloosa County that have not existed for years, such as Crestview's first hospital, high school, and hotel. Mr. Brooks creates these works of folk art from memory, recalling past places that have been torn down or permanently altered, in order to preserve them for future generations. Mack continues to perpetuate community traditions in Okaloosa County through his painting, his music, and his stories. All of these elements make Mack a living testament to the county's traditional cultural heritage.