The famous Floridians that we talk about here are from the pages of history. You won't find anything about currently famous football or basketball stars, golfers, movie stars or such.
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.
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.
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.
Reuben O'Donovan Askew was the 37th Governor of Florida. He was born in Muscogee, Alabama and attended the University of Florida College of Law. He won election to the Florida House of Representatives, the Florida Senate, and the governorship in 1970.
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
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."
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
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.
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."
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
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.
ROXCY O'NEAL BOLTON
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.
Head football coach at Florida State University from 1976 to 2009. During his tenure he helped make Florida State into a perennial football power. His FSU football teams finished in the AP Top 5 teams for 14 consecutive seasons.
NAPOLEON BONAPARTE BROWARD
He was captain of the Three Friends, a seagoing tugboat that ran arms to Cuba during their revolt against Spain. He was Sheriff of Duval County and became the 19th Governor of Florida. His biggest project as Governor was to drain the Everglades.
WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN
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
Dr. Cade was a professor of medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He had a distinguished career and conducted many research projects. The one that made him famous was a drink for treating hydration. It became known as "Gatorade" and is famous worldwide.
He was a Florida politician and judge. He was a member of the Florida House of Representatives, and became Governor of Florida. He completed his career as as Chief Justice of The Florida Supreme Court.
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.
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
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.
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.
She was an attorney and founder of the National Association of Black Women Attorneys. Her father was one of the first black doctors in Miami, where she was born. She was educated at Florida A&M where she got a law degree. She taught school in Miami and at Florda A&M and was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1970. She was the first black woman to serve as a Florida state legislator.
She was an aviation pioneer who was famous as a racing pilot. She set numerous aviation records and was the first woman to break the sound barrier. She headed the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War Two, and organization of more than one thousand woman who ferried airplanes from factories to various cities. She was born and raised in the Florida Panhandle.
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.
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.
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.
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 the 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
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
He was a manufacturer of 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
She came to the United States from Iran when she was 13 years old. She graduated from Berea College in Kentucky with a degree in biology. She spent most of her professional career working for Brevard County on environmental issues. She was a champion of beach preservation, and is honored by Cherie Down Park in Cape Canaveral.
DOUGLASS D. DUMMITT
1784-1857 (image courtesy Phil Eschbach)
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 Beach 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
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.
JESSE BALL DUPONT
She was the wife and widow of wealthy industrialist Alfred I. duPont. After his death in 1935 she managed the philanthropic activities of the Alfred I. duPont Testamentary Trust.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
He was born in Tampa and attended Hillsborough High School where he was voted Handsomest Boy in the senior class. He became a journalist, but developed acromegaly which distorted his facial features. He became an actor and was featured in many films as a scary villain. In real life he was not.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
MAY MANN JENNINGS
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.
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
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.
DAVID D. "DEACON" JONES
He was born and raised in Eatonville, Florida and attended Hungerford High School. After playing college football in South Carolina and Mississippi, he joined the LA Rams of the NFL and played there as a member of the defensive line known as the "Fearsome Foursome". He had many career highlights, and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
BETTY MAE TIGER JUMPER
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.
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.
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.
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.
He was a US Airforce fighter pilot who was born in Tampa and raised in Orlando. He retired as a highly decorated Colonel. Among his many accomplishments was holding the world record from 1960 to 2012 for the highest skydive: 102,800 feet. He is well known in Orlando for his retirement job as VP of flight operations for Rosie O'Grady's Flying Circus of Church Street Station entertainment complex.
CAPTAIN ZEB KNOTT, USN
He attended high school in Pensacola and joined the Navy in 1942. He served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam and was leader of the Blue Angels for three years. In 30 years of military service he accumulated over 10,000 flight hours, 775 carrier landings, flew 45 different planes, and was Commanding Officer of the AE-19 USS Diamond Head. He earned three Legions of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, four air medals and the Bronze Star with combat “V”.
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.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN LEWIS
He was born in Madison, Florida, son of a slave, and became America's first black millionaire. He called himself A.L. Lewis and founded the Afro-American Life Insurance Company in Jacksonville. He was also the founder of American Beach on Amelia Island.
He was an immensely popular conservative talk radio host whose show began in 1984, was syndicated in 1988 and continued until his death in 2021. Although born in Missouri, he spent much of his adult life in Palm Beach.
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
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. MACARTHUR
At the time of his death he was one of the wealthiest persons in America. He made his fortune in insurance and real estate. He owned thousands of acres in northern Palm Beach County and conducted most of his business from the Collonades Hotel coffee shop in Palm Beach Shores. He and his wife established the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation which gives out fellowships.
JOHN D. MACDONALD
He was an author based in Sarasota and Siesta Key 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 again in 1991 as "Cape Fear."
LATIMER "LATT" MAXCY
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
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. He began his career in Summerfield, near the modern day location of The Villages Florida.
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
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!"
He was a real estate developer who was the creator of Coral Gables, one of the first professionally planned cities in the USA. He attended Rollins College in Winter Park and was a major figure in establishing the University of Miami.
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.
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.
He was an architect and resort developer who used designs known as Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival. His influence can still be seen today in the buildings of Palm Beach and Boca Raton.
HARRY T. MOORE
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.
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
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.
He was born in Ocala and attended Ocala High School and the University of Florida. He became a television, stage, and movie star beginning in the 1950s. He also was co-owner of several successful restaurants in New York and one in Ocala, "The O'Neal Brothers Restaurant."
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
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.
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
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."
Newton A. Perry was a swimmer, coach, teacher and attraction promoter. He was swim coach at Ocala High School and star swimmer at age 16. He is famous for spearheading the development of the Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid attraction in 1948.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
She was the first female Attorney General of the United States. She was born in Miami and went to public schools there until she attended Cornell University and Harvard Law.
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 High School and played football at Florida State University.
Joe was an attorney, politician and founder of the Miami Dolphins, Florida's first NFL team. He partnered with comedian Danny Thomas to raise funds for the expansion fee.
EDWARD GLENN "FIREBALL" ROBERTS
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
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
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.
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
Bob Sikes was from Crestview and 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
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. After the war he became a professor at the University of the South and became a prominent botanist.
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
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.
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
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 Mandarin 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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."
JAMES EARL "DOC" WEBB
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.
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.
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."
DAVID LEVY YULEE
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.
From Terrence Young (6/30/2023)
Highly influencial and famous jazz trumpeter of the 1940`s and 50`s who was born and raised in Key West.
Another highly regarded jazz musician from Jacksonville who came to prominence along with his bandmate, Cannonball Adderley. His double bass can be heard on many jazz albums of the 50`s and 60`s.
"The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes
A fan favorite in the 1970`s and 80`s professional wrestling promotion, Championship Wrestling from Florida. Became a national televised star and household name. Died in Orlando.
Professional wrestler who was the first Japanese to win a major singles title in America. Settled in Tampa in 1962 and trained many a household wrestling name out of the old Sportatorium in Tampa. His most famous student being Hulk Hogan.
"Macho Man" Randy Savage
Often called "one of the greatest pro wrestlers who ever lived" by pundits, was a national TV star and became a pop culture icon in the 1980`s and 90`s. Billed himself out of Sarasota, and was a longtime resident of Florida. Passed away in Seminole.
Willis "Gator" Jackson
Jazz saxophonist who was born in Miami and educated at U.M. Part of the soul jazz movement of the late 50`s and 60`s, recording a string of albums up to the 1980`s. Played sideman to artists such and George Benson and Don McLean.
From Various Readers (12/30/2022)
Pat Summerall, Bob Ross, Chesterfield Smith, Jack Kerouac, Jim Morrison, Park Trammell, Lawton Chiles, William and Mary Brickell, Ralph Renick, Ann Bishop, Bill Baggs, and Josef Hernandez.
From Phil Eschbach (12/12/2021)
Also I think you left out an important one – Josef Hernandez (1788-1857). He was my ggggrand father and was the one who captured Chief Osceola during the 2nd Seminole War. He also was the first Hispanic elected to the US Congress. He had 10 children, one of which, Louisa, married George Washington’s grandnephew, George L. Washington. He gave one of his plantations to them, which became today’s Washington Oaks Park. After the first Territorial Council was set up in Tallahassee, he was elected its first president. He was a General over all the militia in the territory during the Seminole War.
I could name a few more that could be on the list, like Frances Eppes, Thomas Jefferson’s grandson who was Tallahassee mayor and founder of what is now FSU and later moved to Pine Castle; James Gadsden (Gadsden Purchase) – lived near Tallahassee; Achille Murat, Napoleon’s nephew, married to George Washington’s grandniece, lived and died in Tallahassee; John Bellamy who built the first federally funded road in Florida from St. Augustine to Tallahassee, lived in Monticello.
I always think of those old original settlers.