1913 – Singer, actress, and entertainer Julia Francis Langford was born in Lakeland in Polk County on this date. Langford was best known for her vocal ability on radio and her later appearances in movies such as “Yankee Doodle Dandy” with actor James Cagney in 1942. Langford also toured extensively with comedian Bob Hope on U.S.O. tours around the world during World War II. Although Langford had a career in Hollywood, she spent much of her life in Jensen Beach, Florida, donating millions of dollars to many local organizations in the Martin County area.
Singing for radio during the early 1930s she was heard by Rudy Vallée, who invited her to become a regular on his radio show. From 1935 until 1938 she was a regular performer on Dick Powell’s radio show. After her film career, from 1946 to 1951, she performed with Don Ameche as the insufferable wife, Blanche, on the radio comedy The Bickersons.
Langford married three times, first to actor Jon Hall (1934–55). In 1948, they donated 20 acres (81,000 m2) of land near her estate in Jensen Beach, Florida, to the Martin County Board of County Commissioners, which named it Langford Hall Park. Located at 2369 N.E. Dixie Highway, just south of the Stuart Welcome Arch, it is known today simply as Langford Park and is one of the county’s major parks.
In 1946, Langford was honored by the hometown of her youth, Lakeland, Florida, for her work with the United Service Organizations (USO) and her music and acting career. The City of Lakeland dedicated the Lake Mirror Promenade as the Frances Langford Promenade. The Promenade was originally built in 1928 and was designed by renowned landscape architect Charles W. Leavitt of New York.
After leaving Hollywood life, she kept up her pastimes of boating and sport fishing. As a nightclub singer in 1955, she married Outboard Marine Corporation president Ralph Evinrude. They lived on her estate in Jensen Beach (which has since been replaced by a housing development), and they built a Polynesian-themed restaurant and marina on the Indian River named The Frances Langford Outrigger Resort, where Langford frequently performed. Locals and celebrities flocked there. It remains open under the name of the Dolphin Bar and Shrimp House, and many of Frances Langford’s memorabilia are still on display. Evinrude died in 1986.
In 1994, Langford married Harold C. Stuart, who had served as Assistant Secretary for Civil Affairs of the United States Air Force (1949–51) under President Harry S Truman. They spent the summers at Baie Fine in Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada, traveling from their home in Florida aboard their 110-foot yacht The Chanticleer, which became a popular tourist attraction when moored at the Outrigger Resort.
Health problems plagued her in the last years of her life, requiring periodic hospital stays. She died at her Jensen Beach home at age 92 from congestive heart failure. According to her wishes, she was cremated and the ashes strewn off the coast of Florida near her residence. Stuart survived Langford (who had no children) and died in 2007 at the age of 94.
In her lifetime and through her Frances Langford Foundation after her death, she has donated more than $30 million in Martin County. Her generosity has touched countless lives throughout Martin County and her legacy continues to shine a decade after her passing.
The 1895 Church of StuArt is a historical building of the first community church, also known as the Pioneer Church, built in Stuart in 1895! Your donations help us maintain, restore, and preserve the building, and also continue to share historical information and articles. We greatly appreciate your support. The donations are not tax deductible.