We lost a legend today by the name of Burt “Smokey” Reynolds, and while most of us may have never met him in person, Jupiter residents certainly feel like this loss hits home. Sadly, Reynolds reportedly passed away of cardiac arrest at a Florida hospital on September 6, 2018 at the age of 82 after suffering from heart problems for a number of years. Throughout the decades, Reynolds has made countless contributions to our town, Palm Beach County, and the state of Florida, and his support of film, television, education, and sports had a profound impact on history.
Inspired by an English teacher at Palm Beach Junior College who pushed him to try out for a play which launched him into a famous acting career, he formed the Burt Reynolds Institute to provide educational opportunities for writers, actors, and filmmakers. The school used to be located inside the regretfully lost Burt Reynolds and Friends Museum, which had to close several years ago to make space for the Harbourside Place development. The institute has now found a comfortable space in North Palm Beach for the 100 students and 5 teachers to feel at home, and they currently provide six classes- from “Fundamentals of Acting” to “Reynolds’ Friday Master Class”.
As an international movie star during the 1980s and 1990s, the Tequesta resident is credited with reviving the local economy during the filming of “B.L. Stryker,” “Smokey the Bandit II” and “Striptease.” The star of television shows such as Evening Shade and B.L. Stryker opened the 400-seat Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater — now the Maltz Jupiter Theatre — at Indiantown Road and State Road A1A in 1979.
Longtime Jupiter Farms and Hobe Sound residents are reminiscing today about the 153-acre previously rural property known as Burt Reynolds Ranch, where scenes of “Smokey the Bandit” were filmed and Reynolds had a petting zoo for locals to enjoy. He would let local non-profits and schools use his ranch to sell hot dogs, cotton candy, and soft drinks for fund-raising events. Reynolds was a humble man who generously had neighbors over on the ranch to mingle with other movies stars, have 4-H events, and even ride horses on the property’s trails. Reynolds even spent his personal time helping organize what is now the local Jupiter Horsemen’s Association.
Reynolds didn’t just shine on the silver screen, and attended Florida State University on a football scholarship as a halfback. His roommate happened to be Lee Corso, the famed college football broadcaster who remains a staple of "College Gameday.” After becoming a big-time Hollywood star, Reynolds was often spotted on the sidelines at FSU during gameday, and he made various financial donations to support the program with new uniforms and scholarships.
Burt once said “If you hold onto things long enough, they get back in style. Like me.” Well, Burt, on behalf of Palm Beach County, rest assured the legacy you built is never going out of style.