A few months ago, we introduced you to Amanda Downing, a DLG attorney for the last 14 years. As an attorney, Amanda is no-nonsense. Compassionate and dedicated, she takes her cases personally. Amanda’s clients are her family, and few at DLG know more about family loyalty than she does.
“I’m an extremely loyal person,” Amanda explained. “I take pride in my heritage, and I would never in a million years leave Fort Myers. And to this day, aside from going to law school — and I picked the closest one I could find — I’ve never lived outside of the area.”
We know a lot of people who come from a long line of Floridians, but Amanda’s lineage can outstretch them all. Born and raised in Fort Myers, Amanda is a sixth-generation Floridian! Her family holds an original pioneer certificate and land records nearly a century old. The first of Amanda’s ancestors, John Fudge, arrived in Florida in 1832. A German immigrant, Fudge settled the land 13 years before Florida has named an official U.S. state in 1845!
In the last 184 years, Amanda’s family has experienced every piece of Florida’s history — from fighting in the Civil War all the way to their love for fried foods, smoked mullet, and the Florida Gators. They’re Florida through and through. One of the most interesting characters in Amanda’s family is her granddaddy, Randolph Wiggins. In his lifetime, Granddaddy Wiggins owned a citrus grove and some 100 acres of the Big Cypress National Preserve. He wrote letters to the investors who bought the land, unaware it was nearly uninhabitable, so it cost him almost nothing.
“That land was my granddaddy’s whole life,” Amanda said. “Neither he nor his family strayed far from their Florida roots. My dad lives in Gilchrist County, where there’s one traffic light. He’ll still drive miles out of his way to buy okra and vegetables from a farm, not the grocery store. It’s not about social consciousness; it’s just his way of life. But everyone in our family values higher education and holds a degree in one form or another.”
Even with such a big family — Amanda’s great grandmother Alderman is one of 14 children — gathering their entire history was no easy task. “All my family is Fudge-Alderman historians, but my Aunt Becki did all the pioneer work,” Amanda said. “It took her two years just to get ahold of the handwritten family bible that lists the original family tree.”
Now, every year, Amanda and her family recount their history at the Alderman family reunion, an event so big it has its own Facebook page. Over a hundred family members gather in Lakeland to catch up and swap stories of times passed.
“Family is No. 1,” Amanda explained. “No matter where you’re from, if your family loves where they’re at, it fosters that love in you. You grow up with that sense of loyalty. I hear people say they don’t know anyone who was born and raised in one place. But I think that’s strange. Everyone I’m closest to is from Florida!”