THOMAS LEROY COLLINS Biography - Polititians


Biography » polititians » thomas leroy collins


Name: Thomas LeRoy Collins                                                                       
Born: 10 March 1909 Tallahassee, Florida                                                         
Died: 12 March 1991 Tallahassee, Florida                                                         
Thomas LeRoy Collins (March 10, 1909 - March 12, 1991) was the thirty-third                     
governor of Florida.                                                                             
LeRoy Collins was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida, where he attended                     
Leon High School. He went on to attend the Eastman School of Business in New                     
York and then went on to the Cumberland Law School in Birmingham, Alabama to                     
receive a law degree. In 1932, he married Mary Call Darby, great-granddaughter                   
of Richard K. Call, twice Territorial Governor of Florida.                                       
His entry into public service began in 1934, when he was elected as Leon County's               
representative to the Florida House. He continued to serve in the House until                   
1940, when he was elected to the Florida Senate to fill an unexpired term. In                   
1941, he purchased the home built by Richard K. Call in Tallahassee, "The Grove",               
which is located across the street north of the official Governor's Mansion in                   
Tallahassee. He was re-elected in 1942, but resigned to fight in the U.S. Navy                   
during World War II. After the war, he was elected once again to the Florida                     
Senate in 1946. He was reelected in 1950, serving until 1954 when a special                     
election was held to fill the remaining two years of Governor Daniel T. McCarty,                 
who had died in office in 1953.                                                                 
He won the special election in 1954 and was sworn in as governor on January 4,                   
1955. In 1956, he was reelected to serve a regular four-year term. In the 1956                   
election, he made history by becoming the first governor to win election in the                 
first primary election, defeating five other candidates. During his term,                       
Collins focused on education, working to strengthen the state's school system.                   
In the racial unrest of his time he took a moderate course, counselling progress                 
under law, and the state experienced only minimal disorder.                                     
Although he initially condemned the U. S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v.                   
Board of Education of Topeka as did literally all Southern elected officials, he                 
fought with the Florida Legislature to attempt to prevent them from passing an "interposition"   
resolution which indicated the intent of the legislature to "interpose" itself                   
between the citizens of Florida and the United States government to prevent what                 
the legislature contended was an illegal intrusion upon the right of the state                   
by imposing integration.                                                                         
He utilized a little-known provision of the state constitution by unilaterally                   
adjourning the legislature to prevent it from passing the resolution the first                   
time. After the legislature returned and passed the resolution, he had no power                 
to veto it, because it was not a law but only a resolution expressing the sense                 
of the legislature.                                                                             
However, as it passed through his office, he wrote upon the interposition                       
resolution, the following statement, in his own handwriting:                                     
"This concurrent resolution of 'Interposition' crosses the Governor's desk as a                 
matter of routine. I have no authority to veto it. I take this means however to                 
advise the student of government, who may examine this document in the archives                 
of the state in the years to come that the Governor of Florida expressed open                   
and vigorous opposition thereto. I feel that the U. S. Supreme Court has                         
improperly usurped powers reserved to the states under the constitution. I have                 
joined in protesting such and in seeking legal means of avoidance. But if this                   
resolution declaring the decisions of the court to be 'null and void' is to be                   
taken seriously, it is anarchy and rebellion against the nation which must                       
remain 'indivisible under God' if it is to survive. Not only will I not condone                 
'interposition' as so many have sought me to do, I decry it as an evil thing,                   
whipped up by the demagogues and carried on the hot and erratic winds of passion,               
prejudice, and hysteria. If history judges me right this day, I want it known                   
that I did my best to avert this blot. If I am judged wrong, then here in my own                 
handwriting and over my signature is the proof of guilt to support my conviction.               
LeRoy Collins, Governor." May 2, 1957.                                                           
Governor Collins fell just a few votes short of persuading the first                             
Constitution Revision Commission to send an amendment to voters to abolish                       
capital punishment. He recalled about his proposal to end death penalty in                       
Florida that every time an execution was carried out under his order, arguing                   
that it left him feeling nearly as guilty as the murderers. Every governor                       
after him has supported the death penalty.                                                       
Upon completion of six years as governor, he became president of the National                   
Association of Broadcasters. He resigned this at the request of President Lyndon                 
B. Johnson to become the first Director of the Community Relations Service under                 
the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Also by Presidential appointment, he became Under                     
Secretary of Commerce on July 7, 1965. He resigned this position effective                       
October 1, 1966 to return to Florida and become a partner in a Tampa law firm.                   
He was successful in obtaining the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in                 
the primary elections of 1968 but was defeated in the general election. In the                   
general election campaign against Edward Gurney, a photograph of Collins walking                 
along side Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Selma march was widely                       
distributed to Florida voters by Gurney's supporters. The photograph contained                   
no caption or other explanation of what Collins was doing in Selma leaving that                 
open to the imagination of the voter. In fact, Collins had not been                             
participating the march, but was shuttling back and forth between the marchers                   
and the Alabama authorities to attempt to craft a compromise which would avoid                   
violence. He conducted these negotiations as a part of his job as head of the                   
Community Relations Service. He was successful in these negotiations as violence                 
was averted when the marchers crossed the bridge, prayed, and then returned back                 
to the other side.                                                                               
After his defeat, he left his law firm in Tampa and returned to "The Grove" in                   
Tallahassee until his death from cancer in 1991. He was called many times by                     
Florida governors Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, and Jeb Bush the greatest Governor                   
that Florida ever had. A tribute was entered in the official record of the                       
United States House of Representatives on March 19, 1991 by Florida                             
Representatives James Bacchus and Charles E. Bennett.