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Great Floridians Program

The Great Floridian designation is presented in recognition of the outstanding achievements of men and women who have made significant contributions to the progress and welfare of this state.

Under Section 268.031, Florida Statutes, the Division shall nominate present or former citizens of Florida, living or deceased, who during their lives have made major contributions to the progress and welfare of the nation, or the state and its citizens. Nominations are submitted to the Secretary of State who selects at least two people annually to be honored with the designation “Great Floridian.

For more information email [email protected].

The Florida Department of State and the Florida League of Cities also recognized a number of Floridians during a commemorative project at the turn of the century.  This was known as the Great Floridians 2000 program. 

Great Floridians

Name Description
Justice Alto Lee Adams, Sr. Florida Supreme Court Justice (1940-1951 and 1967-1968) Alto Lee Adams, Sr. served as Chief Justice from 1949-1951. With his son, Alto “Bud” Adams, Jr. , he founded the Adams Ranch in 1937. Today the Adams Ranch is one of America's premier cattle breeding and herding operations, and is world renowned for its stewardship of the land, wildlife and water resources.
Horacio Aguirre Publisher and International Journalist
Founding Editor, Diario Las Americas
Reubin O'D. Askew Florida's 37th Governor
1971-1979
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés Spanish admiral who founded St. Augustine and first Governor of Spanish Florida
Mary McLeod Bethune Educator and Activist
Lt. General Albert Hazen Blanding A captain in the Florida National Guard, Blanding was promoted to general officer rank when World War I broke out. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for leading the attack on Germany's Hindenburg Line, and the state's Infantry Training Center in Starke was named in his honor. During World War II, Camp Blanding was the largest in the nation.
Coach Bobby Bowden Coach Bobby Bowden, the second winningest coach in major college football history, guided the Florida State University football team to more than 300 victories, two national championships, and 12 Atlantic Coast Conference titles, finishing in the top five in the country in 14 straight seasons. The National Bobby Bowden Award is presented annually by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to a student athlete for achievement on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.
Caroline Mays Brevard Born in 1860, Brevard was a researcher and prolific author. A graduate of Columbia University, she returned home to Tallahassee to teach high school and later at the Florida State College for Women. In 1904, she published The History of Florida, an early and respected resource for researchers and historians documenting the history of the state.
The Honorable Charles H. Bronson Charles H. Bronson is a fifth-generation Florida cattle rancher who served as Florida’s 10th Agriculture Commissioner, from 2001 to 2010. Under his leadership the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services implemented innovative programs to promote Florida agricultural products, protect the state’s natural resources, and safeguard Florida agriculture against pests and diseases.
Derrick Brooks Pensacola native Derrick Brooks played for the Florida State Seminoles football team before going on to play 14 years for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Considered one of the best linebackers in NFL history, Brooks is now dedicated to his charity work and advocacy of the importance of education.
Governor Jeb Bush Florida's 43rd Governor, and the only Republican Governor in the state's history to earn two terms. Bush championed major reform of government programs in public education, led the effort to establish the Florida Forever program, supported the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, launched the Governor's Mentoring Initiative, led efforts to computerize state government, and oversaw disaster management during the 2004-2005 hurricane seasons when six hurricanes hit the state.
Cecil Farris Bryant Florida's 34th Governor
1961-1965
James Robert Cade, Ph.D In 1965, Dr. James Robert Cade led a team of researchers at the University of Florida who developed a drink containing salts and sugars that could be absorbed more quickly by athletes, and the basis for Gatorade was formed. Among Cade's many inventions are the first shock-dissipating football helmet, and a method for treating autism and schizophrenia through diet modification. The Cade Museum for Creativity + Invention in Gainesville is named for him.
Richard Keith Call Third and Fifth Territorial Governor
Lawton M. Chiles Florida's 41st Governor, 1991-1998
U.S. Senator, 1971 - 1989
Mary Call Darby Collins Lifelong Preservationist
Thomas LeRoy Collins Florida's 33rd Governor
1955-1961
Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte President Emeritus of The Florida State University (FSU), dean of the FSU College of Law. State Representative, and former President of the American Bar Association.
Walter Elias "Walt" Disney With his brother Roy, Walter Elias "Walt" Disney co-founded Walt Disney Productions, one of the world’s best-known motion-picture production companies. The success in 1955 of their Disneyland theme park in California inspired Walt to lay plans for development of the even larger Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando opened on October 1, 1971, forever changing the state.
Hamilton Disston Disston bought four million acres of land in South Florida in 1881 for $1 million. "Disston's Purchase," as it became known, primed the state's economy and paved the way for railroad building efforts of Henry Flagler and Henry Plant two decades later. The purchase saved the state financially and opened the southern part of the state for development.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas Writer and Environmental Activist
Tony Dungy One of the most respected and popular coaches in the National Football League, Tony Dungy is a former professional football player and retired coach for the Indianapolis Colts. During his seven years leading the Colts, he became the first African American coach to win a Super Bowl.
William Pope DuVal Florida's First Territorial Governor
1822-1834
Thomas Alva Edison The American inventor, scientist, and businessman came to Fort Myers in 1885 in search of the perfect material for the light bulb filament. For the next 50 years, Edison and his wife Mina spent winters and springs in Fort Myers.
Justice Richard W. Ervin, Jr. Elected as Florida’s Attorney General in 1948, Richard W. Ervin, Jr. remained in that office until his appointment to the Florida Supreme Court in 1964, where he served as Chief Justice from 1969 to 1971 and sat until 1975. Among his many achievements, he helped create the Florida Highway Patrol, and is most recognized for the role he played in implementing Florida’s desegregation process during the 1960s, ensuring Florida’s leadership in the so-called New South.
Chester Howell Ferguson Attorney, Business and Civic Leader
Henry Morrison Flagler Industrialist and Developer
General James Alward Van Fleet Combat Commander, Military Leader, Four-Star General
William Patrick Foster Bandleader, Florida A&M "Marching 100"
William Henry Getty (Bill) France NASCAR Founder and Motor Sports Promoter
Alonzo "Jake" Gaither Legendary Head Football Coach, Florida A&M University
Bernardo de Gálvez A Spanish military leader and the general of Spanish forces in New Spain. Gálvez aided the Thirteen Colonies in their quest for independence and led the Spanish armies against Britain in the Revolutionary War, defeating the British at Pensacola and reconquering Florida for Spain, during the 1781 Battle of Pensacola.
Lt. General James M. Gavin A West Point graduate, in 1942, Gavin was given command of a parachute infantry regiment in the newly formed 82nd Airborne Division. Under his command, paratroopers were an integral part of the Normandy invasion on D-Day. At the request of President John F. Kennedy, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to France 1961 and 1962.
Dr. John Gorrie Physician, Scientist and Inventor
Senator Bob Graham State legislator, two-term governor, and a three-term U.S. Senator, Graham served more than four decades in public service at the local, state and national levels.
Dr. Pedro José Greer, Jr. Physician and Chair of the Department of Humanities, Health and Society at the Florida International University School of Medicine Dr. Pedro José Greer, Jr. is founder of the Camillus Health Concern, which delivers health services to thousands of homeless people, and the St. John Bosco Clinic, which serves disadvantaged people in Little Havana.
Ben Hill Griffin, Jr. Civic Leader and Citrus Baron
The Honorable Bill Gunter William Dawson "Bill" Gunter, Jr. served as a member of the Florida State Senate from 1966 to 1972, where he supported Florida’s “Government in the Sunshine” law, stronger laws for land and water management, and advocated solar energy research and development. He was elected to serve in the United States House of Representatives from 1973-1975, and from 1976-1988 he served as Florida’s insurance commissioner, treasurer and fire marshal.
Paula Hawkins Florida's first female U.S. Senator, consumer rights advocate and champion of children and families.
Al Hoffman Philanthropist
Cultural and Arts Sponsor
Civic Leader
Governor Spessard Holland Florida's 28th Governor
1941-1945
Senator Mallory E. Horne Florida House Speaker and Senate President
Wayne Huizenga Successful businessman and entrepeneur, Wayne Huizenga is the founder of three Fortune 500 corporations. With a single garbage truck in Fort Lauderdale in 1968 he began Waste Management, Inc., followed by the development of two more of the country’s most successful companies, Blockbuster Video and AutoNation. As the initial owner of the Florida Marlins and Florida Panthers, Huizenga is notable for introducing both baseball and hockey to the South Florida area.
Archbishop Joseph Patrick Hurley Preserver of The East Florida Papers, and civic leader of post -World War II St. Augustine.
Zora Neale Hurston Writer and Folklorist
Tony Jannus Pilot of the world's first scheduled commercial flight.
George Washington Jenkins The founder of Publix, the largest employee-owned supermarket chain in the United States, Jenkins opened the first store in Winter Haven in 1930.
May Mann Jennings Florida First Lady 1901-1905
Conservationist and Activist
Senator Toni Jennings Florida’s first female Lieutenant Governor and two-term President of the Florida Senate, Jennings is also a successful businesswoman, and former fifth grade teacher.
The Honorable Frederick Brennan Karl Between 1956 and 1978, Karl served in the Florida House of Representatives, Florida State Senate, and Florida Supreme Court. During World War II, he served in the European Theater of Operations, was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, and was later awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart medals.
Juan Ponce de León Written records about life in Florida began with the arrival of the Spanish explorer and adventurer Juan Juan Ponce de León. Having been granted royal permission to explore for lands to the northwest of Puerto Rico, Ponce de León waded ashore on the east coast of Florida sometime between April 2 and April 8, 1513. He called the area La Florida, in honor of Pascua Florida (“feast of the flowers”), Spain’s Easter time celebration.
Senator Connie Mack U.S. Senator
Charlotte Maguire, MD Recognized today as the “Mother of the FSU Medical School,” Dr. Charlotte Maguire grew up in Orlando and earned her medical degree in 1944 from the University of Arkansas, where she was the only woman in her class. During her groundbreaking career she also served as a delegate to the 1957 World Health Conference in London in 1957, and as one of the highest ranking women in the federal government under the Nixon Administration.
Governor Bob Martinez Fortieth Governor of Florida (1987-1991)
Captain David McCampbell The U.S. Navy's all-time leading ace, and Medal of Honor recipient.
Dr. Sarah McKay Business, cultural and civic leader, and philanthropist.
General Craig McKinley Jacksonville native, and recently retired four-star general, General Craig McKinley was the first Chief of the National Guard Bureau to hold a position on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this capacity, he was a military adviser to the President, the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Council and was the Department of Defense's official channel of communication to the Governors and to State Adjutants General on all matters pertaining to the National Guard. McKinley is now president of the Air Force Association.
Dr. Mae McMillan Educator and founder of Pine Crest School
Harry T. Moore Civil rights activist
Stephen C. O'Connell Florida Supreme Court Justice, 1966-1967
President, University of Florida, 1967 -1973
Eugene Patterson Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, editor and CEO of the St. Petersburg Times
Claude Denson Pepper U.S. Senator, 1936-1951
Congressional Representative, 1963-1989
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1989
Charles W. Pierce 19th century Southeast Florida settler and one of the legendary "Barefoot Mailmen"
Henry Plant Industrialist and Developer
Richard (Dick) Pope Cypress Gardens Founder
Florida Tourism Promoter and Publicist
Lilly Pulitzer Lillian Pulitzer Rousseau was the founder of Lilly Pulitzer, Inc., a company producing clothing and other wares featuring bright, colorful, floral prints. Her signature design was inspired by attempts to cover juice stains after handling produce from her family’s citrus grove. The popular brand, established in the late 1950s and manufactured in Miami and Key West, was revived in the late 1990s and continues to enjoy success and popularity today.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Governor Harrison Reed Florida’s Republican governor during Reconstruction (1868-73), Governor Reed tried to enfranchise freed slaves and introduce social reforms in the face of much hostility, while stabilizing the state’s shattered financial and taxation system.
Nathaniel Pryor Reed Assistant Secretary of the Interior in the Nixon and Ford administrations (1971-77), environmentalist Nathaniel Reed also served as Special Assistant to Florida Governor Claude Kirk, (1967-1971), and for many years as a member of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District.
Eddie Rickenbacker America's leading World War I ace, Medal of Honor recipient, and pioneer of commercial aviation.
Marshall E. "Doc" Rinker, Sr. Founder of Rinker Materials, the largest producer of ready-mix concrete and block in Florida, Rinker became a generous contributor to cultural and educational institutions in the state.
B.K. Roberts Three Time Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court
General Norman Schwarzkopf Four-star general and commander of the U.S. Central Command, General Norman Schwarzkopf graduated from West Point and fought in the Vietnam War. He became a four-star general and commander of the U.S. Central Command, commanding forces in Grenada and the Persian Gulf War. Gen. Schwarzkopf helped found Camp Boggy Creek in Eustis, a camp for seriously ill children and their families.
Betty Schlesinger Sembler One of ten founding members of Straight, Inc. a nonprofit drug treatment program, Betty S. Sembler has dedicated the past three decades to fighting the war on drugs. As the founder and president of Save Our Society From Drugs (S.O.S.) and the Drug Free America Foundation, Inc. she has participated in the White House Conference for a Drug Free America, served as a member of the Governor's Drug Policy Task Force in Florida, and as a board member of DARE Florida (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).
Congressman E. Clay Shaw, Jr. U.S. Congressman – 1981-2007
Don Shula As coach of the Miami Dolphins from 1970 to 1995, Don Shula led his team to two Super Bowl victories, and to the National Football League's only perfect season. He holds the NFL record for most career wins with 347.
George A. Smathers U.S. Senator
1951-1969
Chesterfield Smith Advocate for Justice
Florida's First American Bar Association President
Emmitt Smith Considered one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, Emmitt Smith played college football for the University of Florida, where he was an All-American. A first-round pick in the 1990 NFL Draft, he played professionally as a running back in the NFL for 15 seasons during the 1990s and 2000s. Smith is the only running back to ever win a Super Bowl championship, the NFL Most Valuable Player award, the NFL rushing crown, and the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award all in the same season (1993).
The Honorable Jim Smith In 1968 Jim Smith was elected Florida Attorney General. He also served as Florida's Secretary of State (twice), as Chief of Staff for the office of Governor, and as Chairman of the Florida State University Board of Trustees.
Patrick D. Smith A Mississippi-born author who moved to Florida in 1966, Patrick D. Smith has written four novels set in Florida. Smith was inducted into the 1999 Florida Artists Hall of Fame, and has been nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize, in 1973 for Forever Island; in 1978 for Angel City; and in 1984 for his best known and most beloved work, A Land Remembered.
Steve Spurrier A native Floridian and graduate of the University of Florida, Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy in 1966. As coach, he led the University of Florida Gators football team to six Southeastern Conference championships and a consensus national championship in 1996.
Tim Tebow As a high school senior quarterback in Ponte Vedre, Tim Tebow was ranked among the top quarterback prospects in the nation. At the University of Florida, he helped the Florida Gators win the national championship during the 2006 college football season. During the 2007 season he became the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. In 2008, he led the Florida Gators to their second national championship in three years, and was named the offensive MVP of the national championship game.
Governor Park Trammell Park Trammell was elected to the 1903 Florida House of Representatives, served as President of the 1905 Florida Senate, was elected Attorney General in 1908, and Governor in 1912. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1916 , where he serveduntil his death in Washington, D.C., in 1936.
Julia DeForest Sturtevant Tuttle "Mother of Miami"
Governor Fuller Warren Florida's 30th Governor
1949-1953
Gerry Lester "Bubba" Watson, Jr. Gerry Lester "Bubba" Watson, Jr. born and raised in Bagdad (near Pensacola), is a professional golfer on the PGA Tour. One of the few left-handed professional golfers on the PGA tour, Watson won the 2012 Masters Tournament on the second sudden death playoff hole. The win elevated Watson to a career-high fourth place in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Ruth Springer Wedgworth Ruth Springer Wedgworth came to Palm Beach County in 1930 as the wife of an agricultural scientist. She built a small family farm into one of the state's most prominent agribusinesses. Known as an innovator, she was a key organizer of the Florida Celery Exchange, and has been named Woman of the Year in Agriculture by Progressive Farmer Magazine, received a Distinguished Service Award from the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association and was named Woman of the Year in Florida Agriculture.
E.T. York Florida University System Chancellor
University of Florida Interim President
IFAS Program Founder