The Florida Chiropractic Society ( FCS ) is celebrating its 54th anniversary this year, nearly five decades since its inception in 1965. In order to understand just how influential Dr. BJ Palmer was in the establishment of the FCS, it's necessary to go back some years before the organization was formed.
Palmer's role as the developer of chiropractic is well known – and needs no further explanation here. What may not be so well known today was his effect on chiropractic students at the Palmer School of Chiropractic. According to one Class of '57 graduate of the Palmer School , “In BJ's era, you either loved him – or hated him. There was no in between.” He was so adamant about “chi-rho-prac-tik” and insistent that it be unadulterated, that he would not accept any compromise, period. By the latter half of the 1950's, Palmer was concerned about the direction chiropractic would take after his passing. He stated this clearly in one of his later writings entitled “Where To?” “As the years have crept upon us, we find we have exhausted ourselves. We have now come to the pass where we are casting the GREAT responsibility upon you younger men. You have a lifetime AHEAD of you. Our life is beginning to recede. WE are passing THIS CHALLENGE to you, NOW, TODAY, to save what we have labored so long, so diligently, to protect, preserve and survive for the sake of mankind.” This message found a ready audience with a number of Florida chiropractors, especially among graduates of the Palmer School, many of whom were devoted to Palmer and his philosophy of chiropractic.
At that time, these chiropractors were members of the Florida Chiropractic Association (FCA), the statewide organization founded in 1931. While almost all Florida chiropractors were members of this organization, not all were of the same mind when it came to the definition of chiropractic. As is the case today, there were significant differences of opinion as to what should be the scope of practice. Still, there were forces at work that even someone of Palmer's stature could not suppress. Many chiropractors wanted to expand the scope of practice beyond specific spinal adjustments “by hands alone”. Many chiropractors wanted to be accepted by the medical establishment and attain the same status in society of medical doctors. There was a conflict between Palmer's call for unity within the chiropractic profession and the forces that took a different direction from his philosophy.
A turning point of sorts occurred in Fall 1958. On October 26, Palmer spoke about his new book, “Shall Chiropractic Survive?” at the Palmer School Alumni luncheon in Orlando . On November 7 he spoke again at the FCA meeting in Tampa . His passionate appeal to adhere to the principles he laid down in his life-long work resonated with certain Palmer School graduates who were FCA members, and shortly thereafter, the “ MAC,” or “Member Action Committee” was formed. This group was lead by Hank Zarek, D.C.; Jack Hendricks, D.C.; “Billy” Webb Jr. D.C.; Burton Pierce Sr. D.C. ; Eric J. Beckman, D. C.; and Tom Owen, D. C. These chiropractors were committed to Palmer's chiropractic philosophy – and with working within the FCA to preserve it. This group continued to meet with Palmer from time to time, both at his residence in Sarasota and at least one time at Dr. C.T. Craven's office in Orlando .
"Founding" Florida Chiropractic Society Members - Pic. L to Right are Drs. Don Kuhn, Walter Aiken, David Mayer, Tom Owen and Burton Pierce, Jr. Picture taken in June 2015 celebrating the society's 50th Anniversary!
A potent mix of strongly held positions and contentious issues was brewing. According to one chiropractor who participated in the events of the time, there were “pretty hard heads on both sides.” Chiropractors who were close friends became estranged over the issue of what exactly was chiropractic. After Palmer's death on May 27, 1961, the question of who would define chiropractic became even more pressing. Remembering Palmer's call for unity within the profession, the group tried to affect change from within and work with the FCA, but felt they were opposed at every turn. It was a gradual process over the next couple of years, but by 1965 they had had enough.
The group decided to break away from the FCA and put on their own continuing education programs for license renewal – programs that would contain a component of chiropractic philosophy. Their convictions as to what chiropractic is – and is not – lead them to take this step. Even though their chiropractic licenses and livelihoods would be at risk, twelve founding members went ahead and started the Florida Chiropractic Society.
A difficult road lay ahead, first in getting a state charter for the organization, then in defending the fledgling organization against two lawsuits brought by the Board of Chiropractic Examiners challenging their qualifications to provide continuing education for license renewal. Many more battles were to follow, but then, as now, the FCS was united by a common belief that chiropractic is a drug-less, non-surgical, subluxation-based healing profession. The FCS was incorporated in 1965 and produced its 1st Florida C.E. approved convention in May 1967 with 2 Florida C.E. approved speakers that weekend, Drs. Reggie Gold and Carl Cleveland, Jr.
From the very beginning, the FCS has maintained the importance of chiropractic philosophy as a component of continuing education, as it speaks to the vital question of "What is chiropractic?" Of course, the other side of the coin is the question “ who defines what chiropractic is.” So for as long as there has been an FCS , there has been a realization of the need to have a voice in defining what the chiropractic profession is all about.
While for many years, the FCS confined its activities to educational activities such as license renewal seminar, there was a growing awareness of the need for political action as well. Over the years the FCS has also assumed a “watchdog” role, monitoring the activities of the state legislature and the other statewide chiropractic association, in order to protect subluxation-based chiropractic.
Interest in political activism was spurred in the mid-1980's with an influx of “DE” chiropractors into the organization. Just as the FCS ' founding members were inspired by BJ Palmer to be true to their convictions, the DE (Dynamic Essentials) movement and its leader, Sid E. Williams, D.C., prompted many Florida chiropractors to become involved. Membership rose and political activism increased with the influx of DE chiropractors into the FCS. FCS presidents, such as Ian Grassam, D.C., made sure the FCS had a voice – and that its voice was heard loud and clear.
It is now 53 years later and the Florida Chiropractic Society remains in forward momentum to serve our FCS DC members and their patient communities and the many FCS student members, too.