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Disney World at 50: Meet the general you’ve never heard of who mapped out the Magic Kingdom
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Disney World at 50: Meet the general you’ve never heard of who mapped out the Magic Kingdom

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ORLANDO, Fla. — The tourists at Disney World are too preoccupied with the majestic Cinderella Castle ahead and the marching band playing “Let It Go” to notice the words in the second-floor window above the candy store.

“General Joe’s Building Permits, Licensed In Florida since ’66,” it says over the fake business on the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street USA.

“If you ask anybody that goes to Walt Disney World, who is Joe Potter? ... They won’t know much about him,” said Disney author and historian Christopher Lucas. ”Without him, there’d be no Disney World.”

Missing Walt Disney’s star name recognition, Gen. William “Joe” Potter was the force that turned a swampy Florida wetland into the Magic Kingdom. Potter was the architect of Disney World’s government, the mastermind behind the hidden tunnel system at the park and the reason why Disney has no mosquito problem today, Lucas said.

Potter died at age 83 in 1988 after remaining in Central Florida for the rest of his life post-Disney retirement, but the memories still run deep with his daughter and grandson who live in Orlando today.

Potter’s daughter, Jo Ann Heine, tells stories of how Walt and the general, two good friends, made bets with each other to stop smoking and how Potter once shared a golf cart ride with Dolly Parton at Epcot’s grand opening.

Attorney Kent Hipp, the general’s grandson, displays a photograph of Walt Disney holding him as an baby in his downtown Orlando office. Hipp discovered a handwritten budget for the Magic Kingdom drawn up by the general when going through Potter’s belongings years after his death.

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