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About Cam

Hi – I’m Cam Altee Brown, a resident of Ponte Vedra, Florida, a bedroom community of Jacksonville. I was  born and raised in Florida making me a true Florida Cracker; born in Key West, raised in Jax Beach. Thus Cracker Jax!  I’ve lived in Jacksonville most of my life, except for a few tours of duty in New York and Washington, D.C.  My given name is Camillus, named after St. Camillus the patron saint of gamblers and hospitals. Everyone asks. The family story goes that it was my father’s turn to name and he picked it off a Catholic calendar. He swears it’s true.

I’m a ninth generation Floridian born in Key West, whose de Ortega ancestors got off the boat in St. Augustine in 1768.  Twenty years earlier, the Mickler side of the family settled in South Carolina before eventually coming farther south and being some of the original settlers of Palm Valley out of which Micklers Landing beach area was established.  And no matter how many times new-to-town TV reporters mispronounce it, it is and always will be pronounced “Mike-lers.”

I grew up the daughter of a career Navy pilot and one of nine children. My family lived in a converted barn on the intracoastal waterway at the Jacksonville Beach and Neptune Beach line. Of course you couldn’t tell it was a barn after my grandparents converted it, save for that odd large pipe in the wall of my bedroom. Painted pink of course.

Growing up we  thought we lived in East Jesus, as our many acres of property was undeveloped with dirt roads leading to “civilization.”  My kids cover their ears when I begin my tales of walking miles to school  everyday on the dirty road being chased by horseflies. Our large brood and homestead was indeed a curiosity in town. It wouldn’t be long until we realized what a goldmine my parents had in them there woods.

I graduated from high school long before anyone cashed in on that property. So to get the GI Bill, I joined the Marine Corps for two years when I was 18-years-old.  Two months at Parris Island for bootcamp, two months at Lejeune for training and onto Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. for permanent duty. Not bad. Then it was onto the University of Florida after that where I put myself through school.

I got my degree in Broadcasting and lived and breathed the news. Upon graduation I took a job anchoring and producing the news at a station in Ft. Myers, Florida.  I consider this my saving grace, because CNN was being established at this time.  The early days of CNN were all sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, and I’m sure if I had known about it I would have been there in a heartbeat. Those were the heady days of news not long after Woodward and Bernstein broke Watergate.

It didn’t take me long in the broadcast news business to realize I loved, loved, loved the work….and hated the business of news. When I watched the movie “Broadcast News” with Holly Hunter as the main character I shuddered. I knew that would have been me if I had stayed in TV news.  Today Jacksonville is littered with former TV news people.  Recently I was offered a job producing at one of those stations, but the salaries they pay are laughable unless you’re 22-years-old.  But it was nice to be asked.

My career path instead led to magazine publishing which took me to New York.  Spent a few months at Good Housekeeping magazine before I landed the dream job of creating a marketing magazine for Rockefeller Center. Heralded Simon & Schuster Editor-in-Chief Michael Korda was right when he said “All good places have a soul, and Rockefeller Center has a soul.”  Living in New York changed me in ways that are hard to describe.  My hardcore conservative father still says to this day that I “went up there and came back with all those crazy fool notions.”

After blowing out a knee and returning home several years later, the publishing industry in Jacksonville didn’t offer what I wanted and so began my many years in the nonprofit field. Marriage, kids, divorce in the intervening years, and I’m now back in publishing.

And so I make my life here with my 18-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son, and a dog named Harry. Other family is close-by to visit or purposely ignore. (It’s like that in large families.) I threaten every summer to move up north because of the suffocating Florida heat.  Just far enough north so my sunglasses don’t fog up when I walk out of the house. But there’s a tempo to this beach living that makes summer vacations almost not necessary.  It’s in the sunrise Easter services on the beach in flip flops, the mass invasion of bicycles on First Street to watch 4th of July fireworks,  to still being able to hear the cannon go off when Fletcher makes a touchdown.   And like Rockefeller Center, all good places have a soul, and this beach has a soul.

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