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Brandon lawyer's iconic sign becomes status symbol

Lawyer B. Lee Elam’s sign gives Times columnist Ernest Hooper reason to say that now he truly lives in Brandon.

Special to the Times

Lawyer B. Lee Elam’s sign gives Times columnist Ernest Hooper reason to say that now he truly lives in Brandon.

BRANDON

On my personal bucket list of career achievements, it doesn't rank as high as being on the cover of Rolling Stone or writing a book that gets recommended by Oprah.

But seeing my name on the marquee in front of the Lumsden Road office of attorney B. Lee Elam still stands as a real honor. If you don't know why, you haven't lived in Brandon long enough.

Elam's marquee carries iconic status as it moves into its fifth decade. It's a landmark in a community that has too few distinctive traits. Since Elam first put it up in the late 1970s, it's gone from a sign of the times to a timeless sign.

People who grew up here and moved away look for the garnet and gold sign upon returning, hopeful that it still touts Elam's beloved Seminoles while occasionally teasing Gator faithful, boasting of lunch partners or promoting community events.

And its origins are so simple.

Elam said when a secretarial candidate drove right by his office because she couldn't read the old wooden sign he had put up, he knew it was time to increase his visibility.

"I said to myself, 'Self, who gets the most attention with their signs? Chiropractors," Elam explained this week. "So I called the guy who made the signs for the chiropractor. He said, 'Are you a chiropractor?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'I won't do it.' I said, 'Yes you will.' And he did it.

"I got in trouble with the county because I didn't have a permit, but I eventually got that all straightened out."

Elam, who grew up near Tallahassee, jokes that he painted the sign garnet and gold because, "Tampa is a hellhole of Gators and Lakeland is a cesspool of Gators. I wanted Seminoles to get a fair shake."

• • •

Eventually, however, Elam became more balanced with his messages, spurred by a friend who said people should support all the state schools. One particular year when FSU, Florida and the University of Miami all went to the College Baseball World Series, Elam put up the message, "Go Gators, Go Canes" after FSU got eliminated.

Years later, the Keys & Coakley firm opened an office on Lumsden and put up its own marquee: "Go Gators. Sorry Lee."

Elam offered a response on his sign: "A lizard moved in down the street."

Always civic minded, Elam also uses the sign to promote community events. He's particularly fond of the charitable efforts made by the Brandon-based Emergency Care and Help Organization, better known as ECHO.

He also uses the sign to occasionally mention who joined him for lunch. Sheriff David Gee is a frequent name on the marquee.

"One of my Rotary buddies asked me, 'Who cares if you had lunch with David Gee?' Elam explained. "I said, 'His mother cares. His mother told him she likes to see his name up there."

And it's Rotary that helped get my name on the marquee. When I spoke to the Brandon Rotary in November, I trotted out a list I occasionally used for such occasions, repeatedly completing this sentence with different answers: "You haven't lived in the South Shore and Brandon area until you have …"

My first offer to the club: "You haven't lived in the South Shore and Brandon area until you have seen your name on the marquee in front of B. Lee Elam's office."

Now, I'm one step closer to truly living in Brandon. Thanks, Lee.

Brandon lawyer's iconic sign becomes status symbol 01/27/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 3:30am]
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