Florida Department of State
Kurt S. Browning
Secretary of State
For Immediate Release
March 19, 2009
2009 Great Floridians Designated During Florida Heritage Month
Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning announced today that six individuals, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, first Governor of Spanish Florida; Governor Bob Martinez; Dr. Mae McMillan, noted educator; Eugene Patterson, journalist; Charles W. Pierce, early Florida pioneer and “Barefoot Mailman;” and author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings have been designated the 2009 Great Floridians. “It is a pleasure to present these awards honoring six of Florida’s most outstanding citizens,” said Secretary Browning. “Their contributions have resulted in positive changes that continue to benefit all Floridians.”
The 2009 Great Floridian awards will be presented during the Florida Heritage Month Awards presentation in Tallahassee on March 25.
Great Floridian designees for 2009 include:
Pedro Menendez de Aviles – On September 8, 1565, 42 years before the English settled Jamestown in Virginia, and 55 years before the Puritans came to Plymouth, Spanish admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded America’s first European city, St. Augustine – and America’s first regional government, the Provinces of La Florida. Beginning in 1573, his introduction of Spanish members of the Franciscan Order led to the establishment of two chains of missions – founded two centuries before the better-known missions of California. Menendez died in Santander, Spain in 1574. The City of St. Augustine will celebrate the 450th anniversary of its founding in 2015.
Governor Bob Martinez – Florida's first American governor of Spanish descent, Bob Martinez served as Florida’s 40th Governor from 1987 to 1991. As governor, Martinez initiated America's largest environmental land acquisition program, Preservation 2000. He proposed the Surface Water Improvement Management Act that protects Florida's surface waters, and implemented Florida's Growth Management Act. In 1993, Martinez was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to the cabinet rank position of Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Today, Martinez serves as a senior policy advisor to Holland & Knight LLP.
Mae McMillan – In the early 1930's, educator Mae McMillan began tutoring children of winter visitors to Fort Lauderdale. The high caliber of her teaching soon attracted full-time local students. In 1939, she moved her 100 students to an eight-acre site and added a boarding department. In 1965, the school relocated to a new campus in northeast Fort Lauderdale. Pine Crest has produced the largest total of National Merit program semifinalists and finalists in the state, and was one of the first two schools in the nation awarded the certificate of excellence at secondary and elementary levels by the U.S. Department of Education. Notable alumni include businessman Wayne Huizenga, actor Kelsey Grammer, and world-class swimmer Diana Nyad.
Eugene Patterson – Journalist Eugene Patterson won a Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for his passionate and inspirational Atlanta Constitution editorials in support of civil rights. In 1972, he assumed the editorship of the St. Petersburg Times and in 1978 became its chief executive officer and chairman of the Poynter Institute. He retired from both in 1988. Patterson served during World War II as a tank platoon leader under General Patton. Patterson used his leadership skills, combined with powerful, persistent, and eloquent writing, to help persuade his fellow white Southerners to change their ways regarding race relations. He was inducted into the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1997.
Charles W. Pierce – This early settler of southeast Florida moved with his family to the Florida wilderness in the 1870s. His 698-page memoir, edited and published as the book, Pioneer Life in Southeast Florida, provides an inside view of the region’s history between 1871 and 1894, when the area grew from a virtually uninhabited wilderness to a populated center of commerce. As one of the legendary “Barefoot Mailmen,” Pierce provided the only first-hand account of the disappearance of postman Ed Hamilton on “The Barefoot Route,” the first U.S. postal route between Palm Beach and Miami.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings – Rawlings worked as a journalist before moving to Cross Creek, near Gainesville, and devoting herself to fiction. Taking her material from the people and land around her, she wrote works that resemble vivid factual reporting and are noted for their landscape descriptions. Her best known work is The Yearling for which she won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1939. Other novels include South Moon Under and her memoir, Cross Creek. Rawlings’ 1930s Cracker-style Cross Creek house and farmyard were designated a National Historic Landmark in September 2006, and is managed as a Historic State Park by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
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 nominations to the Secretary of State, who then selects the designees.