UF Journalism Alumnus Talks Alligators At Matheson Museum

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Jeff Klinkenberg has been fascinated by Florida’s wildlife for as long as he can remember, growing up in Miami on the edge of the everglades.

For the past 10 years Klinkenberg,66, has been speaking on Florida topics for the Florida Humanities Council stationed in St. Petersburg.

Jeff Klinkenberg with “Little Klink,’’ presented to him by the curator of Gatorland at a talk in St. Petersburg in 2010. Klinkenberg said that, “If there were no alligators in Florida, to me, Florida just wouldn’t be the same.” Photo courtesy of Jeff Klinkenberg.
Jeff Klinkenberg with “Little Klink,’’ presented to him by the curator of Gatorland at a talk in St. Petersburg in 2010. Klinkenberg said that, “If there were no alligators in Florida, to me, Florida just wouldn’t be the same.” Photo courtesy of Jeff Klinkenberg.

Tonight, he will be at the Matheson Museum of History giving a presentation on alligators in Florida culture. It will show how the iconic animal has played a role in Florida culture for hundreds of years, he said.

He began his career in journalism answering phones for a Miami newspaper when he was 16 and graduated from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications in 1971. From there, he moved back to Miami and began covering the Miami Dolphins, but soon became bored of sports writing.

“I wanted to do something where I could tell stories about real people as opposed to celebrities or star athletes,” he said.

His love of Florida culture led him to a 40-year career at the Tampa Bay Times as an outdoors reporter. Klinkenberg made a career out of storytelling and traversing the state, finding people and creatures he found interesting.

“I had a career that I don’t think exists anymore,” Klinkenberg said. “I’ve had this Huckleberry Fin career.”

Klinkenberg has also written five books about Florida culture. His latest, “Alligator in B-Flat,” is a collection of essays on Florida culture.

Rebecca Fitzsimmons, curator at the museum, said there are currently two exhibits that focus on popular culture in Florida in the 1970s. She said that the museum staff feels that Klinkenberg will be a wonderful guest.

“He has really interesting perspectives on the vast differences between kind of the wild culture of Florida and the tourism industry,” Fitzsimmons said.

Klinkenberg said his presentation covers history from the 16th century with Native American stories to the 20th century and everything in between. He promised that it will be entertaining.

The presentation is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Matheson Museum, 513 E University Avenue, and costs $10 per person.

About Jessica Hundley

Jessica is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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