With Florida’s very own Debbie Wasserman Schultz serving as DNC Chair and a focal point of this week’s convention, we look back to Floridian contributions to past DNC’s.
Beulah Rebecca Hooks Hannah Tingley was the Chair of the state party at this time. She gave a seconding speech to the nomination of Franklin Roosevelt, and became the first woman to address a Democratic National Convention.
Following Harry S. Truman’s embrace of civil rights and Hubert H. Humprey’s speech on the matter, many southern delegates walked out of the convention. The leaders of this movement met in Wakulla Springs, already turning into a major resort thanks to Ed Ball’s millions. Strom Thurman was nominated for President by this breakaway group, a choice that was ratified at a “convention” in Birmingham a week later. In several southern states (but not Florida) Thurmond appeared on the ballot as the official Democratic nominee.
On the far left, Senator Claude Pepper was among a group prior to the convention that was sympathetic to dumping Truman and replacing him with a more authentic New Deal liberal. Pepper’s liberal politics would cost him in 1950 as Ed Ball and other conservative forces in a still ultra-conservative state went all out to defeat him. George Smathers, who beat Pepper in the Democratic Primary would play a prominent role in national party politics.
By this time Senator George Smathers had become a national powerhouse within the Democratic Party, and had the distinction of being perhaps then only Senator close to both Lyndon Johnson AND John F. Kennedy. Smathers himself received two percent of the delegates who cast votes for President at the convention, but more importantly served as a go-between at one of the most historic and confusing conventions of modern times.
Convention was held in Miami, but proved to be a disastrous affair. George McGovern choose Tom Eagleton as his running mate but almost 40% of convention delegates cast ballots for other people (many who were not politicians), including Florida’s own Reuben Askew and Lawton Chiles. Later McGovern had to drop Eagleton from the ticket leading to a November rout.
Detroit convention that is best remembered for the lack of a unity handshake between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy. Governor Bob Graham gave the nominating speech for President Carter.
The Florida example of success was cited in many convention speeches and TV interviews. Governor Lawton Chiles had used Florida as a laboratory to reinvent government agencies and programs along progressive lines and provided a blueprint for many of Bill Clinton’s initiatives.
Florida was given the honor of putting Al Gore over the top of required delegates to win the nomination.