Willie Daniels, one of the original Highwaymen who made national history with his art, passed away in September after a long illness. Born in 1951, Daniels quickly made a name for himself among the Florida Highwaymen, a group of 26 self-taught African-American artists who painted vivid scenes of historic Florida and sold them from the trunks of their cars for $25 to $35 apiece—often with the paint still wet. “In the 1990s, the entrepreneurs earned the name ‘the Highwaymen’ for the way they sold door-to-door and along the side of the road, especially along the eastern coast of Florida on U.S. 1 and A1A,” explains AJ Brown, Daniels’ god-niece and a second-generation painter carrying on the legacy of the Highwaymen.
Although he was a successful painter for more than 50 years, Daniels lived what Brown describes as “a meager lifestyle,” and his generosity with his art afforded thousands of antique dealers, authors, and friends the opportunity to own one of his nostalgic creations. Daniels was a humble man, yet his striking compositions can be found everywhere from homes across America to the White House.