May 2006, DeLand Deltona Beacon
A tall man in a low-crowned, wide-brimmed, Western-style hat stood outside the Republican Party headquarters in Deltona.
It was just before the 2004 presidential election. Not surprisingly for someone standing outside Republican headquarters, the man’s sign urged passers-by to re-elect President George W. Bush.
What was surprising – at least to those who don’t know Lloyd Marcus – was that the man holding the sign was black. That certainly surprised a black woman who drove by while Marcus was holding the sign. She pulled her car off the road, leaned out her window, glared at Marcus and shouted: “You traitor!”
Marcus laughs off such encounters. He’s gotten used to them as, over the past several decades, he has become something of a human lightning rod for almost every political, social, racial, sexual and religious tension in American society.
According to the preconceptions of that society, Marcus should be an embittered, lonely, tortured soul, whose politics – if any – should lean toward the left.
And, not just because of his race. His childhood began in a Baltimore ghetto. He grew to manhood in the 1960s. He is an artist, singer, production designer and musical producer, all professions frequently inhabited by leftists. Even his hairstyle – his hair is long and usually woven into a tight ponytail – bespeaks avant-garde.
But the preconceptions are wrong. Marcus is outgoing with an infectious laugh. He has become a major Deltona civic leader. His songs and artwork have uplifting, often patriotic, themes. And, as his work on Republican campaigns shows, his politics lean toward the right.
Bucking preconceptions has created dust-ups with more than just a passing motorist objecting to his campaign sign. For example, in February, he submitted paintings to be hung in Deltona City Hall during February, Black History Month. But, the paintings were inspired by incidents in the life of his father, Lloyd E. Marcus. Since his father was a pastor of a storefront church in Baltimore, the paintings had religious themes.
City officials at first took down the paintings because they feared displaying them violated the concept of separating church and state. The paintings returned to City Hall after the Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based law firm specializing in church-state issues, sued Deltona in federal court.
Marcus’ drift toward the right of the political spectrum began when he was about 10 years old. His parents moved with their five children into a brand-new, high-rise apartment building in the Baltimore projects. Then came their neighbors. Most of them were on various types of governmental assistance. Many were drug addicts, alcoholics and criminals. They destroyed the apartment building.
“Within one year, it was ruined,” Marcus said. “It taught me a lot about liberalism. If you don’t work for something, you don’t care about it. People blame the white man. It wasn’t the white man in the halls raping people.”
His conservatism didn’t come about because he wasn’t exposed to racism in its uglier forms. His father was almost lynched when he was in a white neighborhood of a port town while in the Merchant Marine.
Marcus’ father returned to Baltimore and established his church after the hitch in the Merchant Marine. There, he battled crushing poverty while trying to help his flock in the little church.
The way out of the projects opened up when the Baltimore Fire Department began accepting black firefighters. Marcus’ father passed the firefighters’ test and was hired. But, hiring blacks didn’t mean the department really was integrated. Marcus’ father had to use a separate bathroom from the white firefighters. He even had to eat with separate silverware.
Still, driven by a powerful work ethic, Marcus’ father stayed with the department for 30 years. He was named the city’s Fire Fighter of the Year several times. Now 79, he is a department chaplain.
The Marcus family was able to leave the projects and move into a Baltimore suburb. Meanwhile, the father instilled his work ethic into his four sons and a daughter.
Lloyd Marcus said his father used to drive him to posh neighborhoods and show him large houses on stately grounds.
“He’d tell me: ‘If you get a good education and work hard, this could be yours,”‘ Marcus recalled, his voice breaking and tears welling in his eyes.
Later, Marcus said he fought back tears because, as he spoke, he remembered the first time he saw his father in his firefighter’s uniform, with brass buttons and highly polished shoes gleaming in the sunlight.
Marcus did odd jobs for neighbors to make money as he practiced his artwork and sang in the choir of his father’s church. His father, proud of his eldest son’s accomplishments, used to take his paintings around to exhibits and shows.
But, Marcus was coming to adulthood during the late 1960s and early ’70s, the heydays of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. That lifestyle pulled him away from his father’s church and work ethic. He had a scholarship to the Maryland Institute College of Art, but flunked out during his senior year.
“I was pretty-much into girls and drugs,” he explained.
He was drafted almost immediately and served two years in the Army. Although he didn’t quit his hedonistic lifestyle, he found outlets for his creativity while serving at Fort Bragg, N.C. He designed artwork for Army brochures and, despite not being a Green Beret, he sang first tenor in the Green Beret chorus.
After returning to Baltimore, he married a young woman from his father’s congregation. The couple had a daughter, but their slide into the ooze of drug and alcohol abuse continued unabated.
“It was a disastrous marriage,” Marcus said.
The couple lived in an apartment complex while Marcus began a career as a graphic designer at a local television station. One night, he was walking through the complex’s parking lot when he was stopped by a woman who had locked herself out of her apartment.
She asked Marcus if he could break into the apartment for her. He did – and then sat and talked with her for hours. Immediately, he felt a connection with the woman, Mary Parker, who also was in a marriage going sour. It was a connection he had never felt with his wife.
“My wife and I never talked,” he said.
Eventually, Marcus and Mary were divorced from their respective spouses and into a relationship with each other. But, their relationship threw sexual fuel onto the racial fires then burning in society Mary is white. She and Marcus have been married now for 29 years, but they’ve repeatedly been subjected to hostility, from both the black and white communities.
When Parker’s father found out about the relationship, he said, “If I see him [Marcus] on the street, I’ll shoot him,” Marcus recalled. Nobody from either Marcus’ or Mary’s family attended the couple’s wedding.
Once, no more than 15 years ago, a man approached the couple while they were dining in a Baltimore restaurant and smashed a beer bottle in Marcus’ face. Maybe their marriage aggravated raw nerves in society, but it saved Marcus and Mary. Backed by Mary’s love and support, Marcus reconnected with his religious roots and kicked his drug and alcohol habits.
In turn, his love and support weaned Mary off her drug and alcohol habits. “He didn’t get me to do anything. It was really so neat seeing him connect. I followed him,” Mary said.
Freed from self-destructive habits, Marcus threw himself into his work as a graphic designer with gusto. His designs appeared on a local talk show hosted by a young woman named Oprah Winfrey.
Marcus and Winfrey worked together for several years. A letter from the now-famous talk-show diva is reproduced on Marcus’ Web site, www.lloydmarcus.net.
By 1993, Marcus wanted to try other entertainment fields. He quit the television station and worked as a musician, singer and producer in the Baltimore area. In 1999, an acquaintance convinced him to move to Central Florida to start a production company. The promised deal never materialized, and Marcus was stuck doing construction work while painting and reassembling his entertainment career. <>But, any bitterness over broken promises eased in October of 1999, when the couple found a home in Deltona. Mary believes she and Marcus were ready to move, and simply used the promise of a production company as an excuse to do what they wanted to do anyway.
“We didn’t know why we wanted to move to Florida,” she said. “But, we needed a reason to move to Florida.”
Not long after moving to Deltona, Marcus used his production skills to treat his neighborhood to a National Night Out, an event designed to organize communities against crime. Then-Mayor John Masiarczyk was impressed by the event, and talked Marcus into joining the fledgling Deltona Arts and Historical Center.
Now, Marcus is the president of the center. The job doesn’t include a salary, and it consumes a lot of time. Marcus coordinates activities at the center, and is trying to get a fund-raising drive going to move the center, now at 682 Deltona Blvd., into a larger building.
But, Marcus, not surprising for somebody guided by optimism, is delighted by the prospects for the Deltona Arts and Historical Center. He intends to raise $2 million for the facility’s expansion.
And, both he and Mary are delighted by the prospects they see in their own futures.
“We love our life here,” Marcus said. “It’s exciting. It’s evolving all the time.”
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