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Champion for Pinellas children dies at 101

Mailande Holland Barton helped found the county's Juvenile Welfare Board and Junior League, all aimed at helping needy kids and families.

Published April 18, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Mailande Holland Barton, whose advocacy for Pinellas County children still touches hundreds of thousands each year, died Saturday (April 17, 2004) at her home. She was 101.

Mrs. Barton was a force behind, and the first chairwoman of, Pinellas County's Juvenile Welfare Board, the first organization of its kind in the nation.

"The deeper you get into something the more you see the need," Mrs. Barton said in 1982, when she had already amassed more than five decades of volunteer advocacy.

The need for the Welfare Board crystalized in the mid 1940s. Juvenile Court Judge Lincoln Bogue was unhappy about having to sentence children to jail cells with adult prisoners. He appealed for help to the Community Welfare Council, of which Mrs. Barton was a member.

Miffed when the County Commission provided only $250 to help dependent and delinquent children, lawyer Leonard Cooperman drafted a bill creating the Juvenile Welfare Board.

The Legislature approved, county voters agreed in 1946 to tax themselves to pay for it and the board was born, with Mrs. Barton as chairwoman.

"It was amazing that it went through," she said. "But it got the overwhelming support of the voters because the need was so evident."

After 35 years on the Welfare Board and four terms as chairwoman, she retired in 1982.

The Welfare Board now disburses more than $38-million a year on hundreds of programs. Nearly 78,000 children and their parents get individual services each year, while more than 226,000 Pinellas kids and adults take part in group activities sponsored by the JWB.

Mrs. Barton's work to comfort those less fortunate ran beyond the Welfare Board.

Her legacy also includes the Junior League, called the Junior Service Club when she and friends Martha Eustis and Margaret Wallace organized it in 1927. She was its first president.

Both organizations advanced Mrs. Barton's major goals: to see poor children fed and clothed, to ensure care for the retarded and to shelter the deserted.

Through the Junior League, early-day members provided clothes and milk and volunteered in Dr. Councill Ruldolph's Well Baby Clinic.

"It was just an answer to a need of the times," Mrs. Barton said.

And the league reached beyond Pinellas County.

"I remember the time they had down around Okeechobee during that hurricane in '28," she said. "Calls went out all over the state. We took lanterns and went down to the room that the telephone company had donated for the league to collect clothes. We loaded up a whole boxcar from that room. They were the first things to reach the sufferers."

Mrs. Barton was born in Meridian, Miss. Her mother taught Sunday school, organized the state Federation of Women's Clubs and served as president of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In a town with no hotels, her father added a wing on the family home for the use of visiting ministers of all denominations.

While attending school in Washington, D.C., she made friends with two St. Petersburg women, Mary Chancellor and Sally Mae Sumner. On a visit to see them, she met H.W. "Jack" Holland, lawyer and businessman, and they later married. He died in 1973.

Their children included the late Elliott W. Holland, a former St. Petersburg City Council member; Albert Holland, who was killed in an auto accident in the late 1940s while in college; and W. Langston Holland, a St. Petersburg lawyer. She also is survived by eight grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

In 1980, she married Marshall Barton, a stock broker. He died in 1989.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete Saturday. Memorial Park Funeral Home is in charge.

- Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

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