Famous Key West High School Alumni

We all know about Key West Conchs. They are those people who are born in Key West. Have you ever wondered about the famous Conchs? Me too. So I started to do some digging. What I found was interesting. There are some very notable Key West High School famous alumni.

Key West High School opened in 1906. Today, Monroe County has 8,700 students and this remains the only high school in Key West. Their mascot, the Conch is noted as it is a favorite marine animal of the Keys.

Additionally, there are some interesting people who may not have been born Conchs but have made Key West their home and have become Fresh Water Conchs. Even if they haven’t lived in Key West for the full seven years to become a “Fresh Water Conch”, many famous people have made this island their home…. even for a short time.

Key West High School Alumni

Scott Saunders

Scott is a 4th generation Conch. He earned an accounting degree from the University of Central Florida and founded Saunders & Company CPA in 1992. In 2004, he purchased Fury Water Adventures and has grown it to the largest water adventure company in the state of Florida.

Mario Sanchez

Born in 1908, Mario Sanchez is considered one of the most important folk artists in the history of Key West. His intricate carvings of the island’s everyday life and its people have been featured in many art galleries, including the Frost Art Museum in Miami. Sanchez’s signature style is a reflection of his Cuban heritage and the cultural diversity of Key West. His art serves as a tribute to the island’s unique history and culture, making him an icon of the community. Sanchez’s work continues to inspire artists and historians alike, showcasing the importance of preserving and celebrating local culture.

Now you are going to see a theme… sports related. The next group of alumni are all known for their athletic accomplishments. They played high school sports at Key West High School.

Arandrick Kornell “Ran” Carthon

Although not born in Key West, Ran attended Key West High School. As a junior, there is rushed for over 1,300 yards. As a senior, he was named to PrepStar’s All-Region team. Ran played for the University of Florida and signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2004.

He is the General Manager of the Tennessee Titans. He previously served as an executive for the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, and Atlanta Falcons.

Khalil Greene

Played high school baseball at Key West High School. He then went on to play for the Clemson Tigers. During his Freshman year, he was a unanimous selection to the All-Regional Team. During his Senior year, he was named National Player of the Year.

He then was drafted by the San Diego Padres. Then in 2008, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Vic Albury

Born in Key West in 1947, Vic was a professional baseball pitcher. He played for the Minnesota Twins.

Carl Taylor

Played baseball and appeared in 411 major league games. He is also the step-brother to Baltimore Orioles first baseman Boog Powell.

Boog Powell

Boog moved to Key West when he was 15 and played at Key West High School. He played in major league baseball from 1961 to 1977. Today he owns Boog’s Barbeque with two locations. One at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the other at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida.

Mekhi Sargent

Born in Key West, Mekhi played at Iowa as a running back.

Notable Conchs

Here are some people who were born in Key West, but may or may not have attended Key West High School… but I found the list interesting just the same.

  • Ray Diaz – model and actor who became known for playing Nicolas Reyes in Hulu’s original series East Los High
  • KT Smith – Instagram Star
  • David Robinson – Known as the “The Admiral” he won basketball championships for the San Antonio Spurs
  • Jack Mitchell – Photographer and writer. Contributed to The New York Times for 25 years.
  • Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry – Stepin Fetchit. A vaudevillian actor and is considered to be the first black actor to have a successful film career.
  • Bronson Arroyo – Major league pitcher who played a significant role in the 2004 World Series victory of the Boston Red Sox.

Other Famous Key West Residents

Thomas McGuane

Best known as a novelist, McGuane has also achieved success as a screenwriter, essayist, and short story writer. His work often explores themes of the American West and its inhabitants, and he is considered one of the most influential writers of his generation.

McGuane’s novels, including The Sporting Club and Nothing But Blue Skies, have been praised for their humor, insight, and vivid portrayal of characters and landscapes. He has also written screenplays for several movies, including the Robert Redford-directed adaptation of his novel The Missouri Breaks.

McGuane’s work has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His legacy as a writer is sure to endure, and his impact on the literary world can be seen in the continuing popularity of his books and the many writers who have been inspired by his work.

Capt. Tony Tarracino

Capt. Tony Tarracino was a man larger than life itself. Born in 1916, he lived through the Great Depression and served in World War II before moving to Key West in the 1940s. Tarracino was a fisherman, a bar owner, and a notorious gambler, but it was his flamboyant personality that earned him a place in the island’s history.

In 1958, Tarracino bought a bar on Greene Street that he renamed Captain Tony’s Saloon. The bar quickly became a favorite hangout for locals and tourists alike, and Tarracino became known for his storytelling and his love of Key West lore. He regaled visitors with tales of the island’s pirates, its literary giants, and its colorful characters, many of whom he knew personally.

Over the years, Tarracino’s reputation as a raconteur grew, and he became an integral part of the island’s social scene. He ran for mayor of Key West in 1985 and 1991 and even had a cameo in the movie “True Lies” as a bartender.

Tarracino passed away in 2008 at the age of 92, but his legacy endures. His bar, now known as Captain Tony’s Saloon, is still a popular venue for live music and cold drinks, and his image adorns t-shirts and posters all over Key West. Capt. Tony Tarracino will forever be remembered as one of the island’s most colorful and beloved characters.

John Martini

A renowned artist and sculptor, Martini has exhibited his works in various countries, including Germany, France, and the United States. He is particularly known for his bronze sculptures, many of which have been commissioned for public spaces.

Ernest Hemingway

We all have heard the story. Hemingway fell in love with Key West at first sight. He said it was unlike any other place he had ever been. He and his wife Pauline bought the house on Whitehead Street, which you can visit today.

His friendship with Joe Russell is that of legends and his connection to Sloppy Joe’s can still be seen today. His books, like To Have and Have Not, reflect Key West during the Depression.

Mel Fisher

For 17 years, Mel Fisher combed the ocean floor looking for treasure. On July 20, 1985, he found the sunken wreck of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha. It remains the largest treasury discovery in Key West History.

Jimmy Buffett

One of the most famous Key West residents. Upon his arrival in Key West in the 1970’s he began to capture the feeling of the island in his songs. We all recognize Key West in songs … Tin Cup Chalice, Margaritaville, and Reasoning with a Hurricane. When on Duval Street, stop by the original Margaritaville Cafe and enjoy a cheeseburger in Paradise and a perfect margarita.

Tennessee Wiliams

The famous playwright spent a lot of his time in Key West. Today you can visit the Tennessee Williams Museum and learn more about this interesting man. Or attend a production at the Tennessee Williams Theater at the Florida Keys Community College.

Kelly McGillis

The actress known for her role in Top Gun, lived in Key West. During that time she owned and operated Kelly’s Caribbean on Whitehead Street. Today, it’s the home to Key West’s micro brewery First Flight.

Shel Silverstein

Author of many loved books, including Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree. Lived on William Street until his death in 1999. The home was sadly destroyed during Hurricane Irma.

Judy Blume

A well-loved author, Judy lives in Key West with her husband. One of her famous books, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret was recently made into a movie. Today, she owns Books & Books.

Harry Truman

Truman spent so much time in Key West, his home was known as the Little White House. Today you can see the place he called home when visiting Key West.

Others include:

  • Calvin Klein – he owned the home at 712 Eaton Street.
  • Angelo Dondhia – owned the home of Calvin Klein before he did
  • David Wolkowski – a famous developer. His most famous project in Key West includes the Pier House Resort
  • Robert Frost – Famed poet who spent 16 winters in Key West.
  • Stuart Woods – the author spends a lot of time in Key West to escape the cold.
  • Sandy Cornish – Civic Leader during the 1800s. After gaining his freedom, he and his wife bought property in Key West and became a leader.
  • Wallace Stevens – a poet who hung around Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway
  • Elizabeth Bishop – poet
  • Truman Capote – novelist, actor, playwright
  • Eric Carle – children’s book author, known for The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Tom Corcoran – author
  • Paul Cotton – musician
  • John Dewey – philosopher, educational reformer
  • John Dos Passos – novelist
  • Robert Fuller – actor
  • Mike Leach – college football coach

There are many more who call Key West their home. Be it short-term or long-term. Key West High School’s famous alumni are varied and accomplished. Much like those from any high school in the country.

As noted, this is the only high school in Key West. The catholic church offers classes up to the 8th grade at the Basilica school, one of few private schools in the county. They are currently running a campaign to raise money to build a high school.

Heading down to explore Key West? Look for some of these places on our self-guided historic marker walking tour.

Epic Road Trip from Key Largo to Key West

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