Cocoa High Grad Vassar Carlton Considered Among Most Dynamic Athletes In Brevard History
By Steve Wilson // January 31, 2023
Miami Herald named Carlton best high school running back in the state of Florida in 1930
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Vassar B. Carlton grew up in a time when nothing was easy, and nothing was given to you. You had to work for everything. Born in 1912 in Island Grove Florida, he was the son of Ben and Zeffie Carlton.
The Carltons were like most everyone else in the area, they were farmers. Carlton grew up doing typical chores that you would expect to find on the farm including milking cows, feeding the mules that pulled the plows, pumping water and hoeing the crops.
Carlton, as did his siblings, did as he was told, without question.
Carlton and his father had a special relationship. They were not only father and son, but they were good friends. While watching his father closely, Carlton learned how to deal with people.
His father would always say that “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,” and that “you will never be in need if you have true friends.”
As a boy, Carlton was very much an outdoors person. He walked everywhere he went and enjoyed hunting and fishing, along with most other outdoor activities. He was also big and strong for his age.
Carlton was a teenager when his family moved to Merritt Island, Florida.
He enrolled at Cocoa High School and immediately made an impact, both on, and off, the athletic fields. Two weeks after the family moved to town, school began, and Carlton went out for the football team. He made the team, and two weeks later, he was elected captain of the team.
Shortly after that, he won his first election when he was selected by the student body as general athletic manager of Cocoa High School.
Because of his size, strength, and competitive nature, Carlton is considered one of the most dynamic athletes in Brevard County history. He excelled at football (running back), baseball (second baseman) and basketball (forward).
He earned all-county honors in all three sports, and in 1930, the Miami Herald named him the best high school running back in the state of Florida. Carlton was later named to the Cocoa High School All-Century Team and inducted into the Florida High School Athletics Association Hall of Fame.
While in high school, Carlton became interested in training boxers. When the opportunity arose he was delighted to find out that he could make $1.50 per day as a trainer, so he jumped on it. He worked with a couple of amateur boxers and also trained professional boxer Gordon Fortenberry.
CHIEF JUSTICE OF FLORIDA SUPREME COURT
After high school, Carlton attended the University of Florida as a pre-med student. However, because of the Depression, he knew his parent could not afford the extra cost of medical school, so he changed his major to law. The rest, as they say, is history!
Four years after graduating from Stetson School of Law, Carlton was elected Brevard County Judge at the age of 27. He was the youngest person ever elected to the Bench in Florida.
After a distinguished career, Carlton retired in 1974 as Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court and passed away Aug. 31, 2005.
The Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame is proud to welcome Vassar Benjamin Carlton, a man of many talents and accolades both in and out of the athletic arena, and long-time dedicated outstanding public servant.
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