June 19, 1948 – February 1, 2016
John Maynor was talented in so many ways. He painted portraits as well as landscapes and he rendered signs for advertising. He repurposed tossed out items and made use of space in unusual ways. In John’s creative mind, an old shoe becames a planter and a yard space turned into a gym. Known about town as “the man on a bicycle with a paintbrush,” John was a man on a mission to succeed.
John was born in Springfield, Georgia. He and his siblings grew up on a farm and he knew hard work from a very early age. He moved to Fort Pierce with his grandparents when he was about 9 years old. Although his early years were not easy, his grandmother who raised him, his three brothers, and four sisters, gave him a good upbringing.
John didn’t like school and was often truant. When he was 14, he got caught breaking and entering and was sent to reform school. Except for art and science, he continued to be uninterested in school. “I always wanted to paint,” he explained. In school, artwork consumed all his energies. He drew cowboys and Indians, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Roy Rogers and Bugs Bunny. His teachers recognized his artistic ability early on in his schooling.
Once he moved to Fort Pierce, John labored in the citrus fields. He used to work all day for $6 or $7 and longed for a better life.
John was painting long before he met Alfred Hair. When he heard that there was an artist in town making good money by painting landscapes, he went to meet him. While he credited Hair for the Highwaymen movement, his mentors were Livingston Roberts and Sam Newton. He said knew he had talent, and that if he hung around Sam, Livingston, and Al Black, he could “learn a few things.” He picked up most of his painting techniques from watching them. He learned to sell by going on the road with Hair and Al Black.
Maynor was also a commercial artist. The Job Corp paid for him to go to commercial art school in San Marco, Texas, where he learned sign painting. His signs have been advertising businesses on and around Avenue D for decades.
We interviewed Maynor as he was approaching his 66th birthday. He said he was determined to change his life. He was working on “getting down to business.” By this, he means that he is going to increase his artistic productivity and get in good, physical and mental shape. He had recently stopped smoking and drinking beer, cold turkey. He said that once he was in good shape, he would be able to produce more work, make more money, and become more successful. He believed God guided him to make this change.
John wore a baseball cap with a copy of a $100 bill on it and told us he had purchased a safe to keep all the money he planned to make. An easel in front of his house displayed a large and colorful landscape. Signs on both sides of the road announced him to anyone who might be interested in a Highwayman painting. His front room displayed many of his awards. Some of his early drawings were framed and hung on the walls and one bedroom had been converted into one of his many studio spaces.
A 110-year old building that was once a barbershop sits behind his duplex and had been converted into another one of John’s studio spaces. It is also used for storage and a place to pray. John knelt for prayer each morning before starting work. “I ask God in the morning to inspire my mind and guide my hand,” he explained when he showed us his personal worship area.
John’s yard, as in traditional African American fashion in the South, was an extension of his living space. He had a designated exercise area, a few studio spaces for painting, a garden space and signs advertising his work. He planned to paint a large landscape on the side of his duplex. His home, where he lived for about 20 years, was just down the road from the bus station. John was hopeful that his location would help attract people if he was to market his work successfully. As well as his paintings and signage, he also created bike tags.
John stated that God helped guide his life. He belonged to the Holiness Church and watched Paula White, the minister of the New Destiny Christian Church in Apopka, on television. He described Ms. White as “a bad white woman, good to the bone [who] helps him get right with God.” When asked what he wants people to know about him, John replied, “I’m one of God’s children.”
Maynor lived alone and was not married. He had five children, and two of his sons are in prison. He was close to his oldest son, who looked out for him. He enjoyed riding his bike. He once rode from Buford, to Savannah, Georgia, about 60 miles. The tag on the back of his bicycle read, “Jesus n John.”
John’s future goals included making paintings using both oil and acrylic paint. He wanted to paint more portraits: Frank Sinatra, Zora Neale Hurston, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barbara Streisand, to name a few. The historic buildings around town are also subjects for future work. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to bring in the money,” he stated. “I want to be “the greatest artist that ever lived.”
John Maynor passed from this world on February 1, 2016, about a year after interviewing with us for the Highwaymen Heritage Trail. He was 67 years old.