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Famous Floridians

William Pope Du Val
William Pope Du Val, 1784-1854

This is by no means a comprehensive list of famous and notable people that lived in the state of Florida. The list will grow over time, but for now these are some of the people who contributed to the lives of Floridians in some form or another.


Collier, Barron George
Collier made his money in advertising. He bought up large tracts of land in Southwest Florida in the 1920s and convinced state and local governments as well as the Atlantic Coast Line railroad to create access to his land. Collier County was the center of his holdings and is named for him. Parts of the State and National Parks in Southwest Florida were areas he preserved from development.
Disston, Hamilton
He was a Pennsylvanian businessman who bought four million acres in Central Florida and created a canal system to allow for drainage of the swampy area. The drained land allowed farmers to come in and provide economic growth for the area. Disston owned a steamboat line that grew successful thanks to his canals. Eventually the railroads came to Central Florida and hurt that business. Due to that and other financial failings, Disston killed himself in 1896.
Du Val, William Pope
A Virginian, Du Val was the first Territorial Governor named for the new American Territory of Florida. Duval County is named for him.
Flagler, Henry Morrison
Flagler was one of the founders of the Standard Oil Company. By the time he became interested in Florida, Flagler was already a very rich man. While on vacation, he saw the inadequate state of railroads in Florida and sensing a business opportunity, bought several small railroad companies. His Florida East Coast Railway soon connected the major cities of the east coast of Florida, eventually stretching all the way to Key West. Flagler also built hotels in all the major stops and developed and sold land to increase the population and economic conditions. Flagler County and Flagler College in St. Augustine are named after him.
Hurston, Zora Neale
She was a Novelist and anthropologist who collected the folktales, songs and histories of rural Southerners, primarily African-Americans. Her most famous novel is Their Eyes Were Watching God. Her writing was controversial in her time because it did not adhere to the viewpoints of noted authors like Richard Wright who repeatedly criticized her work.
Menendez de Aviles, Pedro
Principally known as the founder of St. Augustine, Menendez was a distinguished naval officer who attempted to colonize the east coast of North America from the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia to the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike most early explorers of America, he dealt fairly and honestly at first with the Natives before going to war with them after the colonies in Florida began to fail.
Pepper, Claude Denson
From 1929 through his death in 1989 was a public servant of the state of Florida. He served in the state House of Representatives in the 1929-30 session, the United States Senate from 1936 to 1950, and the U.S. House from 1962 to 1989. Among his legislative claims to fame are the Lend-Lease Act to aid Britain in World War II, numerous health organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, and numerous acts to aid the elderly of America.
Plant, Henry Bradley
Plant was another of the famed Florida railroad barons of the late 19th century. He bought several short lines which eventually were consolidated as the Atlantic Coast Line, the most prominent railroad company serving the western portion of Florida.
Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan
She is best known as the author of The Yearling and Cross Creek. Her move to a farm in Cross Creek lit a creative fire in her that resulted in numerous celebrated magazine articles, short stories, and novels.
Tuttle, Julia Sturtevant
Known as "The Mother of Miami," she was one of the most prominent American residents in that area. She is credited as being one of the primary influences that convinced Henry Flagler to bring his railroad to Miami in the late 19th century. Mrs. Tuttle, a Cleveland native, moved to Miami after the death of her husband. She bought over 600 acres of land on the Miami River and thanks to her efforts to attract the railroad and other businesses, Miami became the city we know today.
Yulee, David Levy
Born David Levy in the West Indies, Yulee was one of Florida's initial U.S. Senators. He was the first Jewish American Senator. Yulee was active in Florida politics from the first Constitutional Convention in 1838 through the Civil War. He served as the territorial delegate to Congress and became one of the leaders in making Florida a state. He was also one of the founders of the Florida Railroad Company.