BY JORDAN GIBBONS
Roy Fox may have fallen into being the caretaker of Rufus King Manor in 1989, but he said he could not be happier with the position he has held for 25 years.
His wife at the time was in charge of restoring the carousel at Prospect Park when Fox met with Tupper Thomas, who ran the Brooklyn-based park. Thomas asked Fox if he was interested in moving into the newly-renovated third floor apartment.
Fox said he jumped at the opportunity to stay for free at the home of one of the framers of the Constitution.
“Right time and right place,” Fox said. “I’m looking out on what I call the back 40, which is Rufus King Park. I have the opportunity to read, write and learn in a place that really makes a difference.”
Along with Executive Director Mary Anne Mrozinski, who has also been at Rufus King Manor since 1989, Fox works with the education directors to ensure the property is in good shape.
The manor was designated a landmark by the City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1966 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The funding for the museum and the grounds comes from both public and private entities, which includes the King Manor Association.
King Manor engages its audiences with historic site tours, interactive exhibits, lectures, public programs and school and community outreach. The goal of the association is to make history relevant and to foster an awareness of the roots of the present and a deeper appreciation of history as an ongoing process.
Fox has been working with other historians to increase King’s presence in history books due to his role as a founding father and as an anti-slavery advocate who spoke out against slavery decades before Abraham Lincoln successfully abolished enslavement.
“We’re busy turning Rufus King into the Major Leagues of American History, as he should be,” Fox said. “Rufus King was 40 years earlier than Lincoln, but that was the path that he set.”
One of Fox’s favorite tasks as caretaker is when he gets to lecture to students and visitors about the history that took place right in Downtown Jamaica, especially when they are residents from the community who have never visited the museum before. Fox takes advantage of his billowing, passionate radio voice that he perfected as a radio host for more than 30 years while informing listeners about the integrity of the former U.S. Senator who lived on Jamaica Avenue.
“It’s just a joyful thing for me to let people know that Rufus King lived right here,” he said.
King Manor hosted about 160 school groups last year and offers a large variety of events for children to learn about history, but the most meaningful day to Roy Fox is Sept. 17, which is Citizenship Day.
This year, King Manor helped to usher in more than 60 new citizens on the back lawn.
“That’s our big day,” he said “What a joyful experience.”
Fox gets to deliver one of his patented speeches every Citizenship Day to tell the new Americans about the hard work of one of Jamaica’s own historic figures.
Despite King’s unsuccessful attempt to rid Americans of the common belief at the time that slavery was tolerable, Fox hopes visitors to King Manor leave with one lesson.
“The lesson we have is win, lose or draw, you do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do,” Fox said.
Reach Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jgibbons2.