Tales of South Beach-The Saga of “Holy Joe”.

Story by Uncle Bill-

I would imagine most every man, woman and child who surfed or even went to South Beach, Miami, FL on any given Sunday during the late 1960’s or 1970’s would remember “Holy Joe”.

Joe was a small man who magically appeared every Sunday around mid day. He was a small person, but had a loud piercing voice, which he needed to have to be able to speak above some of the hecklers. He always wore black dress pants with a white short sleeve shirt and he usually left his shoes on while walking through the sand. His clothing looked as if it hadn’t been washed or pressed…..ever. He was balding and had the most hideous plastered down “comb over” you could imagine. He arrived with a large black bound Holy Bible in hand turned to the scripture lesson for the day. After the first 5 or ten minutes of preaching he began to sweet profusely which added to the humor of his appearance.

I don’t recall anyone knowing his real name or where he came from…….or even if he was a legally ordained minister or a graduate of any Theological Seminary.

As he appeared and began his scripture lesson for the day, a crowd started to gather and soon grew to probably most of the surfers at the beach that day and anyone else who was captivated by the moment. The surfers sat on the concrete parking garage bulkhead wall and he stood several feet below them on the sand looking up at his now formed congregation.

If we all remember, The South Beach of that time between the jetties and the pier was bordered on the west side by a dog racing track and a rather large concrete two story parking garage.

Holy Joe usually kept his sermon to and hour and tried to gear his scripture lesson to a timely event in the community or the world. Although there were always the few rude noisey hecklers, as the sermon continued that crowd began to get more quiet……..yes……some of the crowd actually began to listen to what he was saying.

He usually departed as quickly and as quietly as he had arrived. I recall one day when the weather was bad, several of my friends and I ended up standing by him under the canopy of the parking garage waiting for the rain to let up…….We got up the nerve to ask him……..why do you do this each week and how do you tolerate the hecklers……..his answer came from a now smoother voice which was somewhat hoarse by now…..if only one of you young people listened today, got something out of my sermon, and remember it for a long time……I am happy and satisfied with God’s mission for me at South Beach……….words that I still remember today.


We recently found this clipping of “Holy Joe” preaching to the surfers. Thanks to Frank Ash for making us aware of it.






  • So I’m one of those Surfers from South Beach as well as Sunny Isles that remembers well “Holy Joe”
    I think if Joe was still with us today he’d be quite pleased that most of us turned out to be pretty decent adults and upstanding members of our community’s and still surfing

    Frederick Schilling13 November, 2019
  • Yes,I remember Holy Joe at south beach.I am ashamed to say that I was among those that would mock him.Holy Joe,even though you were mocked and some times spit upon, Those words that you spoke did not fall on deaf ears,nearly 25 years later those Words you spoke still rang in my ears,and I realized that what you were preaching about Jesus Christ was the Truth and I saw my need for a Savior to cleanse me with his precious blood.I was lost and headed to hell without Jesus,but on April 12 1992 I gave my life to my Lord Jesus Christ.All I can say is once I was blind,but now I see! I thank God for the Lighthouse He sent to south beach!! Because of you Joe,I will be able to thank you personally for not being ashamed to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Dan Franklin15 November, 2019
  • The Rev. Charles Cline was a retired Baptist minister.

    Frank Ash15 November, 2019
  • Thank you for sending that article! That adds some nice history to the story.

    John Hughes17 November, 2019

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