Florida Department of State
Kurt S. Browning
Secretary of State
For Immediate Release
March 14, 2008
Secretary Browning Designates 2008 Great Floridians
Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning today announced that former Congressman E. Clay Shaw, Jr. and former Florida First Lady May Mann Jennings have been designated the 2008 Great Floridians. “It gives me great pleasure to present these awards honoring two of Florida’s most outstanding citizens,” said Secretary Browning. “Their commitment and contributions resulted in positive changes that continue to benefit all Floridians.”
The Great Floridians Program is designed to recognize and record the achievements of Floridians, living and deceased, who have made major contributions to the progress and welfare of this state. Each year, an ad hoc committee composed of representatives of the Governor, the Secretary of State, each member of the Florida Cabinet, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives meets to nominate citizens for designation as Great Floridians. Nominees may be current or former citizens of Florida, living or deceased. The committee provides at least two nominations to the Secretary of State, who then selects the designees. The 2008 awards will be presented during the Florida Heritage Month Awards Presentation and Reception in Tallahassee on April 2.
May Mann Jennings (1872 – 1963)
One of the most powerful women in Florida history, May Mann Jennings was a conservationist and women’s rights activist who worked for educational reforms and improvements in public welfare. The daughter of a Florida legislator, Jennings graduated valedictorian of her class at St. Joseph Academy in St. Augustine in 1889. Jennings then met her husband, county judge William Sherman Jennings at her father’s home near Brooksville, and her husband was elected to the Florida legislature in 1892.
May Mann Jennings was Florida’s First Lady from 1901 to 1905, when her husband served as governor. As early as 1905 she helped develop a strategy for acquiring the unprotected land which became Royal Palm Park and would later become part of the Everglades National Park. Following her husband’s term as Governor, the couple moved to Jacksonville, then Florida’s largest city, where he established a successful law practice.
In 1914, May Mann Jennings was elected president of the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs. Through the years of her leadership, the Florida women’s club network worked for issues including the conservation of the natural environment, child welfare, women’s suffrage, the Florida State Library in Tallahassee, reservations for the Seminoles, the establishment of compulsory education, stock fence laws, and a State Park Service. Club women across the state worked in campaign drives, lobbied legislators and appealed to other organizations for assistance.
Congressman E. Clay Shaw, Jr.
The career of Congressman E. Clay Shaw, Jr. is one of decades spent in public service to the citizens of Florida. This Miami native attended public high school in Miami, and received his BA and law degrees at Stetson University in DeLand and St. Petersburg. From 1968 to 1980, E. Clay Shaw, Jr. served the city of Fort Lauderdale as chief city prosecutor, associate municipal judge, city commissioner, vice mayor, and was twice elected mayor.
Elected as a Republican to the Ninety-Seventh, and to twelve succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1981-January 3, 2007), Shaw represented Florida’s 22nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 26 years.
From 1995 to 1998, Congressman Shaw chaired the Human Resources Subcommittee, where he authored the historic 1996 Welfare Reform bill. As Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee, he spearheaded Congressional efforts to save Social Security. Through Shaw's leadership, the earnings penalty was repealed for working seniors, new opportunities for individuals with disabilities were created by removing return to work barriers, and the House repealed the so-called Tier II tax on Social Security benefits. At the beginning of the 109th Congress, Shaw was tapped to be the Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade.
A champion of Everglades restoration, Shaw worked to insure the protection and preservation of this national treasure. In 2000 Congressman Shaw was recognized by The Audubon Society of Florida as “Federal Legislator of the Year,” for his continued support of conservation efforts at the congressional level.