All Hail the King

Charlie Williams, Gulfport’s inaugural Mullet King, has had a good reign, but it’s time for him to hand over his crown, cloak and oar.

Saturday at 11 a.m., the Mullet King will crown a successor to the throne.

When asked who Williams will name, neither Williams nor the board of the Gulfport Historical Society, who host the annual birthday bash, are talking.

“The next king will be crowned at 11 a.m. Saturday,” Christine Brown, the Gulfport Historical Society treasurer and the town’s vice mayor, said. “That’s when everyone gets to know.”

While the birthday bash will have its share of fun and games – more than usual, as the Gulfport Historical Society retooled the celebration this year – the fun of it all never loses sight of Gulfport’s History, as evidenced by the Mullet King’s oar, donated by Williams.

“A poling oar is an essential part of commercial net fishing on the Gulf Coast,” Williams says. “You can pole your net around the fish quietly and when your motor breaks down it will get you home.”

Once upon a time, net boats lined the coast, and “every net boat on the coast had one,” Williams said. When the Gulfport Historical Society named Williams Mullet King last year, he shortened the oar and gave it to the Society with an engraved plaque.

The inscription reads: “Dedicated to Gulfport’s Commercial Fishermen. Past, Present, Future. Donated by Orville Trudell and Capt. Charlie Williams, Mullet King I 2013.”

If fishing is part of Gulfport’s history, the pole has one of its own.

“It was cut from a cedar tree on Jewfish Key in Sarasota Bay and hand carved by a fisherman from Cortez as a present to Gulfport Captain Rob White, who used it for over 30 years on the FV Wimpy until his death,” Williams says. “Then it was given to Orville Trudell, another old time Gulfporter, who had it on his boat for years and died last month of cancer. When he got sick about two years ago, he gave it to me, so it’s not just any pole. It is now ‘The Golden Polin’ Oar’ an integral part of every Mullet King to come.”

Saturday, Williams will pass the pole to the new king, a slice of history found amid the vintage-style kids games, fishermen feats of strength for adults, hot dogs and cake. For more information, visit the Gulfport Historical Society’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/GulfportHistoricalSociety.

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