FAMOUS FLORIDIANS IN HISTORY

Updated October 4, 2020

We know many of you are limiting travel during these uncertain times.  Although we continue to feature trips and places to visit, we are not encouraging you to visit them until it is safe.  We want to support Florida's attractions and businesses during this situation, and hope you will plan to visit them when things get better.  In the meantime, enjoy them virtually from the comfort of your home. 

The famous Floridians that we talk about here are mainly from the pages of history.  You won't find much about currently famous football or basketball stars, golfers, movie stars or such.

Some Famous FloridiansSome Famous Floridians

We instead focus on famous Floridians from the earliest times of the state to more recent years.  There are no cut off dates, and we understand that we can't include all people who deserve to be on this list.

This is an incomplete list of famous Floridians and could be expanded almost forever, but we had to start somewhere.

A famous Floridian does not have to have been born in the state, but should have spent a significant amount of time living here and/or shaping events in the state.

To make things simpler for us, we've decided to limit our list of famous Floridians to those who are no longer with us.


FAMOUS FLORIDIANS WHO HELPED SHAPE THE STATE


CANNONBALL ADDERLY
1928-1975

Julius Edwin Adderly was a jazz alto saxophonist who gained fame during the 1950s and 1960s.  He was originally from Tampa, and lived in Tallahassee for awhile because his parents taught at Florida A&M.  For a time he was the music teacher at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale.

ROSS ALLEN
1908-1981

He was a herpetologist and writer who was an expert on snakes and crocodiles.  He founded the Reptile Institute in Silver Springs and ran it for 46 years.  He was famous for his demonstrations of handling rattlesnakes, alligators, and other creatures.  He starred in many documentary films and was world famous for his expertise and showmanship.

JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
1785-1851

He was an ornithologist who made many trips to Florida to study and draw the birds he found in the state. The National Audubon Society was founded in his honor.  What he discovered in Florida is included in his classic book "The Birds of America."

ROGER BABSON
1875-1967

He was a famous businessman, economist, and financial expert in the first half of the twentieth century.  Originally from Massachusetts, he founded Webber College, now Webber International University, in Babson Park, Florida.  He ran for President of the United States in 1940 as the Prohibition Party candidate.   

EDWARD "ED" BALL
1888-1981

A businessman with powerful political influence with the "Pork Chop Gang" that dominated Florida for many years.  He controlled the St. Joe Paper Company, Florida East Coast Railway, Florida National Bank, and more while managing the Alfred I. duPont Testamentary Trust.

RED BARBER
1908-1992

Walter Lanier Barber was a sports announcer and writer who began his career while a student at the University of Florida.  He covered Gator football games for a time.  Nicknamed "The Old Redhead", he was famous for broadcasting games of the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers, and New York Yankees.  He wrote several books including "The Rhubard Patch:  The Story of the Modern Brooklyn Dodgers."

WILLIAM BARTRAM
1739-1823

This naturalist explored the St. Johns River in Florida in 1774.  He recorded and drew much of what he saw on that trip and in various other excursions around the state.  He published a book in 1791 describing his travels.  It's popular name is "Bartram's Travels."

MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE
1875-1955

An educator and civil rights activist, she founded the National Council for Negro Women in 1935, and started a school for African-American students in Daytona Beach known as Bethune-Cookman University.

EDWARD BOK
1863-1930

He was a Dutch born editor and author.  He won the Pulitzer Prize, and was the editor of "Ladies Home Journal" for 30 years.  He lived at Mountain Lake near Lake Wales and created Bok Tower Gardens.

RICHARD BOONE
1917-1981

A movie and television star, one of his most famous roles was as Paladin on "Have Gun Will Travel."  His wife was from St. Augustine, and he retired there in the early 1970s.  He began teaching theater at Flagler College in 1973, and actively supported theater in St. Augustine.  He died there in 1981 of throat cancer.

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN
1860-1925

He was a politician and orator from Nebraska who ran for President of the U.S. three times.  He also served in the U.S. Congress and was Secretary of State.  He moved to Miami in 1912 and began a speaking career.  He often was a spokesman for the new community of Coral Gables, and contributed to the real estate boom of the 1920s. 

JAMES ROBERT CADE
1927-2007

Dr. Cade was a professor of medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville.  He had a distinguished career and conducted many research projects, but the one that made him famous was a drink for treating hydration.  It became known as "Gatorade" and is famous worldwide.

JUDY CANOVA
1913-1983

She was born in Starke, Florida, and became a nationally famous comedian, actress, singer, and radio personality.  She also was in Broadway plays and in movies.  She hosted her own network radio program, the Judy Canova Show, from 1943 to 1955.

ARCHIE CARR
1909-1987

He was a professor of zoology at the University of Florida and a conservationist.  He was especially influential in conserving the world's sea turtle population.  His work in that area is honored by the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, a 20 mile long stretch of coastline from Melbourne Beach to Wabasso Beach.

MARJORIE HARRIS CARR
1915-1997

The wife of Archie Carr, she was famous in her own right.  She graduated from Florida State University and began her career with the Welaka National Fish Hatchery.  She loved the Ocklawaha River and worked diligently to preserve it. She is honored by the 110 mile long Marjorie Harris Carr Greenway along the route of the cross-state canal she helped defeat.

RAY CHARLES
1930-2004

He was a famous singer, songwriter, and pianist who was a pioneer of "soul music."  From Greenville, Florida, he went blind at a young age.  His mother got him accepted at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine.  It was here he learned to play classical piano, including Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.  

BARRON COLLIER
1873-1939

He was a successful businessman who at one time was the largest owner and developer of land in Florida.  He based his Florida operation in Everglades City and financed completion of Tamiami Trail from Naples to Miami.  Collier County is named for him.  The County seat was Everglades City, but was moved to Naples after Hurricane Donna.

LEROY COLLINS
1909-1991

He was the 33rd Governor of Florida from 1955-1961. He was the first governor from the South to promote the end of segregation.  He is remembered as a prominent voice of civil rights in Florida.

DOYLE EDWARD CONNER, SR.
1928-2012

He was the long time Agriculture Commissioner of Florida, serving with 7 governors over a span of 30 years from 1961 to 1991.  He was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives  in 1950 while still a student at the University of Florida.

WILLIAM CATO CRAMER, SR.
1922-2003

Bill Cramer was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1955 to 1971.  He was from St. Petersburg, and is notable as first Republican elected to Congress in Florida since 1880.  He was a leader in the revival of the Republican party in Florida.

SAMUEL FREDERICK DEBARY
1815-1898

He was born in Germany and became a friend of the Mumm family who produced fine Champagne. When he was 25 he came to America and started an  importing firm.  He became rich and bought 10,000 acres in central Florida and planted groves.  DeBary, Florida and Debary Hall are named for him.

HENRY A. DELAND
1834-1908

He was a manufacturer or baking soda, and founded the city of DeLand, Florida in 1876.  He founded DeLand Academy which later became Stetson University.  He nearly went broke during the Great Freezes that destroyed most of his citrus.

FREDERICK DELIUS
1862-1934

He was an English composer whose family sent him to manage an orange plantation near Mandarin, Florida.  He flopped as a plantation manager, but picked up a lot of African-American music knowledge and became world famous for his compositions. The Delius Home has been relocated to Jacksonville University.

BO DIDDLEY
1928-2008

His real name was Ellas McDaniel, and he was a famous singer, guitarist, songwriter, and music producer.  He influenced many other rock and rollers including Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.  He played guitar with his signature beat - a five accent hambone rhythm.  For many years he lived in Archer, Florida, near Gainesville.  He is buried in Bronson, Florida.

WALTER ELIAS DISNEY
1901-1966

He made our list not only because he spearheaded the purchase of the huge acreage that became Walt Disney World, but also because of his Florida roots.  His parents were married in Kismet, now a ghost town in the Ocala National Forest.  His grandparents are buried in Paisley, Florida.

HAMILTON DISSTON
1844-1896

He was a Pennsylvania saw manufacturer who probably saved Florida from bankruptcy in the years after the Civil War.  He purchased four million acres of land from the state, and began to develop it and try to drain the Everglades.  His efforts were instrumental in creating the towns of Kissimmee, St. Cloud, Gulfport, Tarpon Springs and St. Petersburg.  His efforts primed the Florida economy

MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS
1890-1998

She was a journalist, author, and conservationist.  Her classic book "The Everglades:  River of Grass" was written in 1947 and has been credited with influencing the creation of numerous parks and related Everglades conservation groups.  Read about her career as an author and activist.

DOUGLASS D. DUMMITT
1784-1857 (no portrait photo available)

He was born in Barbados, the son of a planter, and came to Florida in 1807 when the state still belonged to Spain.  He settled in the area between Cape Canaveral and New Smyrna and planted groves in the area including much of north Merritt Island.  He is in the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame and acknowledged as the father of the famous Indian River Fruit industry.

ALFRED I. DUPONT
1864-1935

He was a financier, industrialist, and philanthropist from the famous DuPont family.  He left the family business and went on his own, investing heavily in Florida land and businesses and headquartered in Jacksonville.  His wife was Ed Ball's sister.

BUDDY EBSEN
1908-2003

He was a famous actor and dancer with a long career.  His most well known role was as Jed Clampett in the television series "The Beverly Hillbillies."  He was raised from the age of 10 in Florida, including Orlando where his father had a dance studio.  He graduated from Orlando High School, and attended the University of Florida and Rollins College.

JACK ECKERD
1913-2004

He was the head of the chain of Eckerd drugstores, which were located in all regions of Florida.  He began his Florida stores in 1952.  At one time there were 1,500 stores in the chain.  The stores in Florida were sold and became CVS.  He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1974.  To honor his support and generous donations, Florida Presbyterian College renamed itself Eckerd College in 1972.

THOMAS ALVA EDISON
1847-1931

He was America's greatest inventor, and pioneered in electricity, communication, motion pictures, and the incandescent light bulb.  He performed many of this experiments at his home and laboratory in Fort Myers.  His home and that of his neighbor, Henry Ford, are open to the public.

STEPIN FETCHIT
1902-1985

His real name was Lincoln Perry and he was born in Key West, Florida.  He was an actor and comedian, and became the first black actor to earn one million dollars.  He prospered and had a successful movie career, mostly in the 1930s.  In the 1950s his movie career declined when the character he portrayed began to be seen as a negative stereotype.

MEL FISHER
1922-1998

He was a treasure hunter who became famous after discovering the wreckage of the "Nuestra Senora de Atocha" in 1985.  The Spanish galleon yielded a treasure worth $450 million, including tons of gold, silver, gold coins, emeralds, and more.  His motto was "Today's The Day"  - and it finally was.

HENRY MORRISON FLAGLER
1830-1913

He was one of the founders of Standard Oil Company. After leaving that company, he became a hotel and railroad developer.  Starting in St. Augustine in 1885, he began building hotels and extending his Florida East Coast Railway all the way down the east coast of Florida and beyond to Key West.

ADMIRAL JOE FOWLER
1894-1993

After retiring as an Admiral in the U.S. Navy, Joe Fowler built and managed Disneyland in California.  He then came to Florida and headed up the design and construction of Walt Disney World.  He was a trusted right hand man to Walt and Roy Disney.

BILL FRANCE, SR.
1909-1992

Known as "Big Bill", he was a race car driver who went on to found NASCAR and become its long time manager.  Based in Daytona Beach, this organization became the sanctioning body of stock car racing.  Early races were held on the sand beach north of Ponce Inlet. They are now held at the Daytona Beach International Speedway.

WARREN "ALLIGATOR JOE" FRAZIER
1873-1915

One of Florida's earliest showmen and entertainers, he put on alligator and crocodile wrestling shows in the early days of Palm Beach and Miami.  He weighed 300 pounds and was very strong.  He also had traveling road shows across the USA with alligators and other Florida wildlife.  Not to be confused with Alligator Joe Campbell of Jacksonville, another alligator entrepreneur.

JAKE GAITHER
1903-1994

He was the head football coach at Florida A & M University in Tallahassee for 25 years.  His won loss record is among the best of any college coach.  Many of his players went on to professional football careers.  Florida A & M was a historically black public university.  Learn more about Jake and other Florida black football pioneers.

JACKIE GLEASON
1916-1987

He was a comedian, actor, writer, composer, orchestra leader and television super star.   He played Ralph Kramden in "The Honeymooners."  His claim to Florida fame is when in 1964 he moved his highly rated television show to Miami Beach.  He lived for the rest of his life at Inverarry Country Club in Lauderhill, Florida. His whimsical grave is in Doral, Florida.

ARTHUR GODFREY
1903-1983

Godfrey, nicknamed the "Old Redhead",  was an extremely popular radio and television star in the 1940s into the 1960s.  He did a lot of promotion convincing his audiences that Miami Beach was a great place to live and visit.  The city honored him by renaming 41st Street Arthur Godfrey Road.  There is a current move to change the name back.

JOHN B. GORRIE
1803-1855

Dr. Gorrie was a physician and inventor of mechanical cooling, the precursor to modern air conditioning.  He practiced in Apalachicola, Florida, beginning in 1833.  He believed that cool air would benefit patients suffering from malaria and other tropical diseases.   A museum in this small town honors him.

BEN HILL GRIFFIN JR.
1910-1990

He was known as one of the largest owners of citrus groves and processing plants in Florida.  He based his operations out of Frostproof.  As a University of Florida graduate, he made large donations to UF including an expanded football stadium.  The resulting name is now Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

PAULA HAWKINS
1927-2009

She was the only woman from Florida elected to the U.S. Senate.  She was also the first woman from the United States to be elected to a full senate term (1981-1987) without having a close family member who previously served in major public office. She lived in Winter Park, Florida.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY
1889-1961

The famous American author lived in Key West, Florida from 1931 to 1939.  He loved the laid back lifestyle and fishing opportunities.  During his time in Florida he wrote the novel "To Have and Have Not."  His house in Key West is open to the public.

FRANCIS ASBURY HENDRY
1833-1917

He was a cattle baron and politician in Florida after serving as an officer in the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.  He had large holdings in the center of the state, and founded the City of LaBelle, named for his daughters, Laura and Belle.

SPESSARD HOLLAND
1892-1971

He was a Governor of Florida (1941-1945) and U.S. Senator (1946-1971).  He was from Bartow, and served the state during the difficult years of World War Two and during the extreme population increases of the 1950s and 1960s.

WINSLOW HOMER
1836-1910

He was a famous American landscape painter who spent many winters in Florida. He produced many paintings in this state that captured the essence of the state's waters, flora, and fauna.  He stayed in Jacksonville, Enterprise, Homosassa, Tampa, and Key West. During his visit to Homosassa in 1904, he created 11 watercolors.

WAYNE HUIZENGA
1937-2018

He was a successful businessman who founded AutoNation, Waste Management, and was the co-owner of Blockbuster Video, the Miami Dolphins, the Florida Panthers, and the Miami Marlins.  He spent most of his life in Fort Lauderdale, and was generous with his wealth through numerous philanthropic contrubutions.

ZORA NEALE HURSTON
1891-1960

She was an author, anthropoligist, and film maker.  Her most popular novel was "Their Eyes Were Watching God."  She was raised in Eatonville, Florida, and died in poverty in Fort Pierce, Florida.  Read more about this author and her work.

ANDREW JACKSON
1767-1845

Before he became President of the United States in 1829, he was a general in the U.S. Army.  He led U.S. forces in the First Seminole war.  This war resulted in the annexation of Florida into the U.S. and he served as Territorial Governor of Florida in 1821.

DANIEL "CHAPPIE" JAMES, JR.
1920-1978

He was a fighter pilot who served in World War Two, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.  He was born in Pensacola, Florida, and learned to fly at Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama.  He became the first African-American to reach the rank of four-star general in the armed forces of the United States.

GEORGE W. JENKINS
1907-1996

Mr. George, as he is affectionately known, founded Publix Super Markets.  He started his career as a Piggly Wiggly manager in St. Petersburg.  He opened his first Publix in Winter Haven in 1930. 

MAY MANN JENNINGS
1872-1963

She founded the League of Women Voters of Florida, and was the wife of Florida Governor William Sherman Jennings.  She is known as the "Mother of Florida Forestry" for her contributions to conservation.

BETH JOHNSON
1909-1973

Elizabeth "Beth" McCullough Johnson was a member of the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate.  She was the first female elected as a state senator in Florida history.  She was elected a state senator in 1962.  She was instrumental in establishing the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON
1871-1938

He was an author and civil rights activist who became the head of the NAACP.  He earned a reputation as a writer during the Harlem Renaissance for his poems, novels, and anthologies.  He was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

BETTY MAE TIGER JUMPER
1923-2011

She was born in a Seminole camp near Indiantown, Florida and was the first and only female chief of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  She was a nurse and newspaper editor, and was the first Florida Seminole to learn to read and write English. Her first languages were Mikasuki and Creek.  In the segregated Florida of her childhood, Seminoles were not permitted to attend white or black schools.  

COLIN P. KELLY, JR.
1915-1941

He was born in Madison, Florida and graduated from high school in 1932.  After graduating from West Point, he became the first Army officer to fly the Boeing Flying Fortress in the Far East.  He died when his B-17 was the first to be shot down by the Japanese three days after Pearl Harbor.  After his death, he was awarded the Distinquished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism.

ZIBA KING
1837-1901

Known as Judge Ziba King. he was a cattle baron who operated near Arcadia, Florida.  At one time he was the largest cattle owner in the state, with 50,000 head.  He had many children and has a lot of descendants in the state of Florida.  Read about his life at Ziba King.

CLAUDE R. KIRK, JR.
1926-2011

He was an insurance executive who became the 36th Governor of Florida from 1967-1971.  He is notable as being the first Republican to be elected to this position since the Reconstruction era after the Civil War.

FRANCES LANGFORD
1913-2005

She was a singer and actress who was born in Hernando, Florida, and died in Jensen Beach. She was famous for the many world tours she made with Bob Hope during war time:  World War Two, Korean, , Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf.  In retirement, she owned the Outrigger Resort in Jensen Beach and was married to Ralph Evinrude of outboard motor fame.

HANK LOCKLIN
1918-2009

He was a country music singer and writer who was on the Grand Ole Opry for almost 50 years.  His most famous songs were "Please Help Me, I'm Falling", and "Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On."  He was born in McLelland, Florida in the far northern panhandle, and is in the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.  

DR. HOWELL TYSON LYKES
1846-1906

Dr. Lykes left his medical career and took over a family owned 500 acre cattle ranch in Hernando County, Florida, near Brooksville. He began shipping cattle to Cuba.  His seven sons joined him and incorporated as Lykes Brothers in 1910.  They have vast holdings in land, citrus, mining, timber, and shipping.

JOHN D. MACDONALD
1916-1986

He was an author based in Sarasota who wrote novels and short stories. He sold more than 70 million books in his career.  His most popular works include the "Travis McGee" series, and his novel "The Executioners" which was filmed in 1962 and 1991 as "Cape Fear."

LATIMER "LATT" MAXCY
1887-1971

He was a citrus and cattle baron with thousands of acres of range land and groves in south central Florida around Frostproof.  He came to Florida with his family in 1895.  It is estimated he owned 150,000 acres of ranch land in Osceola County alone. 

JOHN NATHAN MAYO
1876-1960

Nathan Mayo was the longest serving Florida Commissioner of Agriculture being in office from 1923 to 1960.  He served with 11 Florida governors from Cary A. Hardee to LeRoy Collins. 

WILL MCLEAN
1919-1990

He was a singer and song writer who is often referred to as the "Father of Florida Folk."  He was born in Chipley, Florida, and was a fixture at festivals and folk music festivals all over the state.  He wrote more than 3,700 songs and stories.  He was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1996.

THELMA "BUTTERFLY" MCQUEEN
1911-1995

She was born in Tampa, and had a successful career as a dancer.  Then, in 1938, she had her first movie role in "Gone With The Wind" as Prissy, a housemaid. She became a legend and is remembered for her famous line: "Oh, Miss Scarlett!  I don't know nothin' 'bout 'birthin' babies!"

MICANOPY
1780-1848

He was the leading chief of the Seminole during the Second Seminole War.  He was born near St. Augustine, and during his chiefdom he acquired large amounts of land and cattle.  He encouraged intermarriage between Seminole and freed black slaves.  The town of Micanopy, Florida is named for him.

BONE MIZELL
1863-1921

Napoleon Bonaparte Mizell was born in Florida and became a legendary cowhunter, the Florida equivalent of the western cowboy.  He worked for most of the big cattle ranchers in Florida including Captain Francis Hendry and Ziba King.

HARRY T. MOORE
1905-1951

He was a teacher and founder of the first branch of the NAACP in Brevard County, Florida.  He and his wife, Harriett T., were killed in the bombing of their home in Mims, Florida, on Christmas night in 1951.  No one was ever prosectuted for the bombing.

AL NEUHARTH
1924-2103

A newspaper man who took charge on Gannett Florida.  He founded Florida Today in Cocoa, and in 1982 he started USA Today, one of the most widely read newspapers in the country.  He lived in the largest house in Cocoa Beach named Pumpkin Patch.

RANSOM ELI OLDS
1864-1950

He was an automobile pioneer who created the Oldsmobile and REO brands.  In 1916, he purchased 37,547 acres on the north side of Tampa Bay and developed the area into the city of Oldsmar.  

OSCEOLA
1804-1838

He was born Billy Powell of Creek, Scottish, African-American, and English heritage.  He came to Florida in 1814.  In adulthood, he became an adviser to Chief Micanopy.  He was a famous warrior and was captured under a deceptive flag of truce in 1837 near St. Augustine.  He died in prison one year later.  

RUTH BRYAN OWEN
1885-1954

She was Florida's first female U.S. Representative, being elected to Congress in 1929.  She later became Ambassador to Denmark and Iceland.  She was the daughter of three time presidential candidate William Jenning Bryan.

BERTHA PALMER
1849-1918

She was the widow of millionaire Potter Palmer and came to Florida in 1910 from Chicago. She bought 80,000 acres around Sarasota and 19,000 acres near the Temple Terrace area of Tampa.  She proved to be a brilliant business woman and became prominent in Florida ranching, citrus, dairy  farming, and development.  The land that is now Venice was part of her holdings, as was Myakka River State Park and much more.

ARVA MOORE PARKS
1939-2020

Arva Moore Parks McCabe was a preservationist, author, and historian in Miami.  She helped preserve Truman's Little White House in Key West and the Biltmore Hotel and Venetian Pool in Coral Gables.  She wrote many books on the history of Miami and Coral Gables.  Two of her most popular books were "Miami: The Magic City", and a biography of the founder of Coral Gables titled "George Merrick:  Son of the South Wind."

TOM PETTY
1950-2017

He was the leader of the musical group "Tom Petty and the Hearbreakers."  He sold more than 80 million records in his career, and is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  He was born in Gainesville, Florida, One of his first guitar teachers was Don Felder, who later joined the Eagles.

HENRY B. PLANT
1819-1899

He was a businessman and investor who controlled railroads.  He created the Plant System, later known as the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.  He connected what had been isolated Tampa with the rest of the nations railway system.  His name is remembered in Plant City, Florida.

JUAN PONCE DE LEON
1474-1521

He was an explorer and Spanish conquistador who led the first official European expedition to Florida in 1513.  He probably landed somewhere on the state's east coast.  He returned in 1521 and was mortally wounded by Calusa indians in southwest Florida.

DICK POPE, SR.
1900-1988

He founded Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven and played a key role in the development of Florida as a tourist destination.  He made water skiing an immensely popular sport, and was an accomplished water skiier himself.

THE PORK CHOP GANG
1900s to 1968

This was a group of 20 north Florida and panhandle politicians who controlled the Florida legislature.  They were powerful because legislative boundaries had not been redrawn to reflect the large population increases in the rest of the state.  They began to lose their power in 1968 when a new Florida constitution redrew the state's voting districts.   Read more about the Pork Chop gang and Florida Crackers.

GENERAL WILLIAM EVERETT POTTER
1905-1988

Known as Joe Potter, he was one of Walt and Roy Disney's two right hands during the construction of Walt Disney World near Orlando.  Before that he served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and became Governor of the Panama Canal Zone. 

A. PHILIP RANDOLPH
1889-1979

In 1925 he organized the first predominately African-American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.  He was a pioneer in the civil rights movement and led the march on Washington where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech.  Randolph was born in the central Florida town of Crescent City.

MARJORIE KINNAN RAWLINGS
1896-1953

She was an American author who won the Pulitzer Prize for her best known work, "The Yearling".  She spent much of her adult life in Cross Creek, writing and managing her orange grove.  She came to admire her Florida Cracker neighbors and wrote about them extensively.

BURT REYNOLDS
1936-2018

He was a movie actor who became the No. 1 box office star in the country from 1978 to 1982.  His many movies include Deliverance, The Longest Yard, and the Smokey and the Bandit series.  His family moved to Riviera Beach, Florida.  He graduated from Palm Beach Highschool and played football at Florida State University.

JOE ROBBIE
1916-1990

Joe was an attorney politician and founder of the Miami Dolphins, Florida' first NFL team. He partnered with comedian Danny Thomas to raise funds for the expansion fee.

EDWARD GLENN "FIREBALL" ROBERTS
1929-1964

Fireball Roberts was born in Tavares, Florida, and raised in nearby Apopka.  As a pitcher for the Apopka Mud Hens he was nicknamed "Fireball" because of his fastball.  After attending the University of Florida, he became a stock car racer.  He was one of the first NASCAR super stars.  He died in a crash in the World 600 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

JAMES GAMBLE ROGERS, IV
1937-1991

Gamble Rogers was the son of a prominent Winter Park architect who had a long career as a Florida musician, writer, and storyteller.  He died at the peak of his career trying to save  a drowning tourist in the heavy surf south of Flagler Beach.

ERVIN T. ROUSE
1917-1981

He was a country fiddler known for his popular recording of the country classic "Orange Blossom Special."  He and Chubby Wise each claimed credit for writing the song.  He also wrote "Sweeter Than The Flowers." In his declining years he lived in the Everglades on Big Cypress Loop Road and played for drinks at the Gator Hook Lodge.

DON SHULA
1930-2020

He was a football player and coach.  He was the youngest coach in NFL history when he joined the Baltimore Colts in 1963.  He later coached the Miami Dolphins from 1970 to 1995.  He led the team to a perfect 17-0 season in 1972 and won Super Bowl VII and Super Bowl VIII.  His NFL 17-0 single season record has never been broken.  It is known in history as "The Perfect Season."  He won more games than any other NFL coach in history:  328 wins.

ROBERT LEE FULTON SIKES
1906-1994

Bob Sikes represented the Florida panhandle in the U.S. Congress from 1941 to 1979, missing only year or so in World War Two.  Florida then was virtually a one party state - Democrat - and Sikes became one of the most powerful members of Congress.  He helped bring many military bases to the panhandle and was known by his nickname "He Coon."

EDMUND KIRBY SMITH
1824-1893

He was a career U.S. Army officer who was born in St. Augustine.  He joined the Confederate States Army in the Civil War.  He was the last full Confederate general to surrender his army. He became a professor at the University of the South and became a prominent botanist.

PATRICK SMITH
1927-2014

He was an author nominated seven times for the Pulitzer Prize, and five times for the Nobel Prize for Literature.  He lived in Merritt Island, Florida, and his most popular novel is "A Land Remembered", a fictitious historical account of three generations of a Florida pioneer family.  He wrote other classic books.  You can learn about Patrick Smith and his career.

JOHN B. STETSON
1830-1906

He made his fortune by inventing the cowboy hat, simply referred to as a Stetson.  He prospered during the settling of the western U.S., and helped financially rescue the town of DeLand, Florida.  He also gave money to what is now known as Stetson University.

JOSEPH STILWELL, SR.
1883-1946

He was a U.S. Army four-star general  known as "Vinegar Joe" because of his caustic personality.  He served in World War Two in the China Burma India Theater, and coordinated war efforts with the Chinese army under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.  He attended the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, and served in World War One. He was born in Palatka, Florida.

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
1811-1896

She wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and one of the earliest Florida travelogues, "Palmetto Leaves".  Upon meeting Mrs. Stowe during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said "so you're the little lady who started this big war.  Mrs. Stowe spent many winters in her home in Manadarin south of Jacksonville.


FRANK AND IVY STRANAHAN
1864-1929 and 1881-1971

Frank was the first permanent white settler in what is now Fort Lauderdale.  He established a trading post in 1893 on the New River and became friendly with the Seminoles.  His wife, Ivy Cromartie, was the first school teacher in Fort Lauderdale.

JACOB SUMMERLIN
1820-1893

Known as "King of the Crackers", he was reportedly the first child born in Florida after the land was ceded by Spain.  He became a wealthy cattle baron and had a lot to do with the founding and development of Orange and Polk Counties, Orlando, Bartow, and Fort Myers.

MEL TILLIS
1932-2017

He was a country music singer and songwriter with a long list of Top 10 hits.  He overcame a severe stuttering problem and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame.  He was born in Tampa and raised in Pahokee.  He attended the University of Florida for a time before joining the Air Force. He died in Ocala. 

JULIA TUTTLE
1849-1898

She was a businesswoman with land around the mouth of the Miami River that became to city of Miami.  She is known as the "Mother of Miami."  She convinced Henry Flagler to extend his railroad from West Palm Beach to Miami.  She provided land to Flagler for a hotel and railroad station.

JAMES ALWARD VAN FLEET
1892-1992

He was a highly decorated General of the U.S. Army. He served in many battles in World War Two, and commanded all U.N. forces during the Korean War.  He attended high school in Bartow, Florida, and after graduating from West Point he was the Florida Gator's head football coach in 1923 and 1924.  He died in Polk City, Florida.  

DALE VAN SICKEL
1907-1977

He was the first Florida Gator football player to be named an All-American in 1928.  He went on to a successful career as a movie stunt man and actor.  He appeared in 59 movies, 17 television series, and 204 movies, including "Mr. Deeds Goes To Town", "North by Northwest," and "Jim Thorpe  - All American." 

CHUBBY WISE
1915-1996

He was a famous country music and blue grass fiddler who was born in St. Augustine and began his musical career in Jacksonville at the age of 12.  He is credited along with Ervin T. Rouse for writing the classic fiddle tune "Orange Blossom Special."

JAMES EARL "DOC" WEBB
1899-1983

Doc Webb had the Walmart concept before Sam Walton did.  Webb's City was a one stop drug store and department store in St. Petersburg that operated between 1925 and 1979.  At its peak it had 77 departments and covered 7 full city blocks.

SLIM WHITMAN
1923-2013

He was born Ottis Dewey Whitman, Jr. in Tampa.  He was a popular singer in country and western music, folk music, and contemporary Chistian music.  He sold more than 70 million records in this career. including "Rose Marie" and "Red River Valley."  He died in Orange Park, Florida at the age of 90.



DAVID LEVY YULEE
1810-1886

He was  a politician who grew up in Florida on his family's extensive land holdings.  He became prosperous in the railroad business. and also became a United States Senator.  He was the first Jewish Senator in United States history.  Yulee, Florida, and Levy County are named for him.


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