Governor LeRoy Collins - US Navy - WWII Veteran

2016 FVHOF Nomination

Governor LeRoy Collins (Larry Metz)
It is a pleasure and honor to nominate former Florida Governor Leroy Collins for induction into the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame.
There is an excellent video about Governor Collins on the website of the Leroy Collins Institute at The Florida State University. The link follows: HERE
This 11 minute video provides ample support for Governor Collins’ induction into the FVHOF. I strongly recommend anyone reviewing this nomination to view the video.

Attached is a timeline of major events in the life of Governor Collins, copied from the website of the Leroy Collins Leon County Public Library. He had a long and successful career in public service both prior to and after his service in the U.S. Navy.

From these credible historical resources it is clear that Governor Collins was a highly successful and consequential governor, whose calm and principled leadership guided our state through challenging times. He is best known for his leadership in seeking an end to segregation and advocating for racial equality.

Finally, regarding proof of Governor Collins’ military service, at 1:10 on the above referenced video the narrator mentions his service in the U.S. Navy in World Wai- II and there is a picture of him with his young family wearing his U.S. Navy uniform. Also attached is a copy of Governor Collins’ obituary in The New York Times dated March 13, 1991, which mentions his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. In addition, attached are excerpts from a power point provided by the Department of State which has photographs of Governor Collins in uniform and a certificate of his Naval training at Princeton University in 1945.

Governor Thomas LeRoy Collins

(From the Leroy Collins Leon County Public Library Website)

  • 1909 Born in Tallahassee, Florida, on March 10, LeRoy Collins is one of six children of Marvin, a grocer, and Mattie (Brandon) Collins.
  • 1927 LeRoy Collins, elected class president during his senior year, graduates from Leon High School.
  • 1931 Collins completes his law studies at Cumberland University in Tennessee.
  • 1932 Mary Call Darby, great-granddaughter of Richard Keith Call (twice Governor of Florida)
    and LeRoy Collins are married. The same year, Collins is narrowly defeated in his bid for Leon County Prosecutor.
  • 1934 – 1940 Elected at age 25, Collins serves in the state House of Representatives. He sponsors legislation for the statewide retirement system for teachers, for the first code to modernize the Florida school system, and for funding the education of children with disabilities. He fights to outlaw slot machines – which were meant to add funding for educational reform.
  • 1940 Collins is elected to the State Senate to finish out the term of William Hodges, who died in office. He serves until 1944, when he resigned to join the Navy in World War IL
  • 1941 The Collins family acquires their home. The Grove, built by Richard Keith Call in the 1820’s across the street from the Governor’s Mansion in downtown Tallahassee. They raise their
    four children there.
  • 1946 Re-elected to the state Senate, Collins is becoming known for his work in the areas of women’s rights, education, highway safety, and labor, health, and welfare.
  • 1947 Collins is selected “Most Valuable Senator” by the Capital Press Corps.
  • 1953 Collins is voted “Most Valuable Senator,” “Most Valuable All-Around Member,” and
    “Outstanding in Debate,” by Senate colleagues in the “Cracker Politics” poll.
  • 1954 Collins defeats Charley Johns (acting as governor for Dan McCarty, who died in office) to become Florida’s 33rd governor. Collins was the first Florida governor elected to consecutive terms.
  • 1955 Collins becomes known as “the education Governor.” Fie gives Florida its system of community colleges, three new state University, statewide educational TV, and instituted merit pay for teachers.
  • 1956 Collins is reelected as governor. The Tallahassee bus boycott is taking place and the Governor takes a moderate position on racial issues. He is known for his work on desegregation in the South, and his work towards state reapportionment during this time. He strongly supports the “one man, one vote” principle.
  • 1957 The Governor becomes known nationally as a “spokesman of the New South” for his open-minded attitude towards integration. He becomes chairman of the Southern Governors Conference in spite of the fact that some members disagree with his ideas on education, reapportionment, and integration.
  • 1958 Collins becomes the chairman of the National Governors Conference. He is the first governor to serve as chairman of the National and Southern Governors Conferences simultaneously.
  • 1959 As the chairman of the National Governors Conference, Collins leads a delegation on a visit to the Soviet Union to compare how states and republics in two countries are governed.
  • 1960 Collins is elected as permanent chairman to the Democratic National Convention and presides over John F. Kennedy’s nomination for the Democratic presidential candidate.
  • 1961 After serving the maximum two terms, Collins retires as Governor. He takes a position as the president of the National Association of Broadcasters and calls for a ban on televised cigarette advertisements.
  • 1964 Collins becomes director of Community Relations Services, which was created as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • 1965 President Lyndon Johnson asks Collins to go to the civil rights march led by Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Alabama. He is a major force in insuring a peaceful demonstration without violence against King and his supporters. Collins becomes the undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
  • 1966 Collins returns to Florida to join a law firm in Tampa.
  • 1968 Collins runs for the U.S. Senate seat, but is defeated by Ed Gurney.
  • 1970 Collins returns home to Tallahassee to live in The Grove; joins a local law firm, and writes the book, Forerunner Courageous.
  • 1978 Collins serves on the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. Collins unsuccessfully attempts to have the Commission recommend the abolition of the death penalty.
  • 1989 Governor Collins receives the first James D. Westcott Distinguished Service Medal from FSU President Bernard Sliger.
  • 1991 Governor LeRoy Collins died in Tallahassee, Florida, on March 12,
  • 1991 at age 82. He is buried in the family cemetery at The Grove.
  • 1993 On September 17, 1993, the Leon County Public Library was renamed the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library.
  • 1998 Governor Collins was selected as one of The Top 50 Most Important Floridians of the 20th Century.
  • LeRoy Collins, who was Governor of Florida from 1955 to 1961 and an early “New South” politician who sought to promote racial justice in the region, died in his sleep at his home in Tallahassee yesterday, two days after his 82d birthday. Mr. Collins had surgery for colon cancer in 1986 and three years later was found to be suffering from lung cancer. He had been undergoing chemotherapy since then.
  • A lawyer and member of the Florida Legislature for two decades, beginning in 1934, Mi. Collins emerged from a conservative “Old South” background at a critical time to play a part in helping to transform the region politically, economically and socially. Took Unpopular Stances at the height of the civil rights movement, Mr. Collins took widely unpopular positions, urging Floridians to accept integration of the state’s public institutions and promoting equal treatment of blacks by commercial and other interests. “I realized that we had to change,” he said later.
  • In 1965, he represented President Lyndon B. Johnson during the civil rights march by followers of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma, Ala., to the state capital.
  • During the years when Mr. Collins held public office and continuing through the 1960’s, he was derided by opponents as “Liberal LeRoy” and he was defeated in a 1968 campaign for a seat in the United States Senate by a Republican, Ed Gurney. After the campaign, Mr. Collins decided he would not seek elective office again.

Aside from his activities in promoting racial harmony, he was known for the changes he helped bring about in education and health care in Florida and for his efforts to bring high-technology industries to the state.

Mr. Collins was born in Tallahassee, the son of the owner of a small general store. He later studied at the Eastman Business School in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and received a degree from the Cumberland Law School in Lebanon, Tenn.

Ex-Gov. LeRoy Collins Dies at 82; Floridian Led Way in ‘New South’ – The New York Times

In 1934, at the age of 25, he won his first election for political office, to represent Leon County in the Florida House. After three terms, he won election to the Florida Senate in 1940. He resigned during his second term in the Senate to serve in the Navy in World War II. After the war he was re-elected to the Senate, in 1946 and 1950. Pushed Education Measures

While in the Senate, he pushed educational measures, including a law that equalized financing among poor rural counties and wealthy urban ones.

In 1954 he ran for the unexpired two-year term of Gov. Dan McCarthy, who died while in office. Mr. Collins won a runoff, defeating Charley E. Johns, the Senate President and acting Governor.

Two years after he became Governor, Florida’s public schools and higher education was racially segregated, and a Gallup Poll indicated that four of five white Floridians opposed the United States Supreme Court’s 1954 school-desegregation ruling.

Although he had endorsed segregation in his 1954 and 1956 campaigns for Governor, Mr. Collins said his objectives were “to preserve order, obey the courts and keep the schools open.” Denounced Store Owners.

As the civil rights movement spread, with sit-ins at lunch-counters in several Florida cities, Mr. Collins went on radio and television in March i960 to denounce white owners of stores who encouraged blacks to patronize parts of their establishments but denied service to them in others.

He later explained his views on race relations, saying that he had accepted segregation “because I considered that this was the way it was supposed to be,” but that he later realized segregation had to end “because it denied fairness and equal opportunity and equal advantage for a large part of our population.”
He is a former chairman of the Southern Governors’ Conference and the National Governors’ Conference, and he was chairman of the i960 Democratic National Convention that nominated John F. Kennedy for President.

In early 1961, after leaving the Florida Statehouse, Mr. Collins moved to Washington, where he served as president of the National Association of Broadcasters until 1964.

He served as director of the Federal Community Relations Service in 1964 and 1965, after organizing the agency to try to keep the peace at the request of President Johnson after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It was in that capacity that he represented the Johnson Administration in Alabama, helping to mediate between Dr. King’s followers and the police.
Mr. Collins was Under Secretary of Commerce in 1965 and 1966. In 1970, he joined the Tallahassee law firm Evans, Yarn, Jacobs & Odom.

He is survived by his wife, the former Mary Call Darby; a son, Thomas Jr. of Tampa; three daughters, Jane Aurell and Mary Proctor of Tallahassee and Darby Begeman of Miami, and several grandchildren.