When actions of the past clash with the values of today
“Mormino, an astute and knowledgeable observer of modern Florida, has produced a provocative and readable biography of one of the state’s important but little-known governors.”—Julian M. Pleasants, author of Home Front: North Carolina during World War II
“One of Florida’s most distinguished historians captures the post–World War II era presided over by Governor Millard Fillmore Caldwell. As the state began its explosive growth, Caldwell reflected the best and worst of Florida. Mormino captures the man and his time in this worthy addition to Florida history.”—James C. Clark, author of Red Pepper and Gorgeous George: Claude Pepper’s Epic Defeat in the 1950 Democratic Primary
Millard Fillmore Caldwell (1897–1984) was once considered one of the greatest Floridians of his generation. Yet today he is known for his inability to adjust to the racial progress of the modern world. In this biography, leading Florida historian Gary Mormino tackles the difficult question of how to remember yesterday’s heroes who are now known to have had serious flaws.
The last Florida governor born in the nineteenth century and the first to govern in the atomic age, Caldwell was beloved in his time for leading the state through the hard years of World War II. He was wildly successful in a political career that may never be matched, serving as governor, congressman, state legislator, and chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. He passed important educational reform legislation. But his attitudes toward race and citizenship strike Americans today as embarrassing, if not shocking. He refused to address black leaders by their titles. He argued for segregated bomb shelters. And he accepted lynching as part of the southern way of life.
Mormino measures the contributions of Caldwell alongside his glaring faults, discussing his complicated role in shaping modern Florida. In the current debates surrounding public memorials and historical memory in the United States, Millard Fillmore Caldwell is a timely example of one man’s contested legacy.
Gary R. Mormino is professor emeritus of history at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He is the winner of the Florida Humanities 2015 Florida Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing and serves as Florida Humanities scholar in residence. His many books include Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida.
A volume in the series Florida in Focus, edited by Andrew K. Frank