This Day in History

David Shelby Walker, Florida's 8th governor

1815 – David Shelby Walker, Florida’s 8th governor was born on this date in Russelville Kentucky. He moved to Leon County in 1837 and was elected to the first State Legislature in 1845 as a Senator, serving again in 1848 in the House. Later, Walker served as the mayor of Tallahassee and also the Register of Public Lands. He was a Florida Supreme Court Justice before being elected Governor in 1865. Walker was a circuit court judge until his death in 1891. He is buried in the Saint John’s Episcopal Church Cemetery in Tallahassee.    

State Comptroller, William D. Bloxham

1890 – William D. Bloxham was appointed State Comptroller on this date. Bloxham served as Florida’s governor from 1881-1885, then again from 1897-1901. He was born on a plantation in Leon County on July 9th, 1835 (only the second native governor at the time) and became interested in politics at a young age. He was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1861, also serving in the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Bloxham also served briefly as Secretary of State in 1880, and U.S. Surveyor General for Florida from 1885-1889. Bloxham died in 1911 in Tallahassee.

Bay County carved out of Calhoun County

1913 – Happy Birthday Bay County, which was carved out of Washington and part of Calhoun County on this date. In February 1913, representatives from five towns on St. Andrews Bay met in Panama City to select a name for a proposed new county. Panama City was chosen as the county seat a year later and remains the most populous city. The name Bay was selected because it was satisfactory to the majority of the citizens and was descriptive of the territory that would be included. The population of Bay County in 1920 was 11,407, in 2010 it swelled to 168,852.

Conch Republic was born

1982 – The Florida Keys seceded from the Union and the Conch Republic was born on this date. On April 18, 1982, the United States Border Patrol set up a roadblock just south of Florida City, on U.S. Highway 1, to catch illegal immigrants traveling to and from the Florida Keys. The Key West City Council complained repeatedly about the inconvenience for travelers to and from Key West, claiming that it hurt the Keys' important tourism industry.

Napoleon Bonaparte Broward was born

1857 – Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, Florida’s 19th governor was born on this date in Duval County. Broward had an interesting career prior to being governor, first working on steamboats in and around Jacksonville eventually becoming one of the best captains in the region. He was appointed sheriff of Duval County and gained influen...ce among the city’s politicians and other powerful individuals. Broward was elected to the State Legislature in 1900 and ran for governor in 1904.

Two-time Super Bowl champion linebacker Wilber Marshall was born in Titusville

1962 – Two-time Super Bowl champion linebacker Wilber Marshall was born in Titusville on this date. Marshall attended the University of Florida where he was named all-American in 1982 and 1983 and was a 3-time first-team SEC selection. In the 1984 NFL draft Marshall was the 11th pick in the first round with the Chicago Bears. Marshall helped lead the Bears to a 46-10 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in 1986 and 37-24 Super Bowl win over the Buffalo Bills in 1992.

William Pope Duval became the first territorial Governor of Florida

1822 – April 17: William Pope Duval became the first territorial Governor of Florida. In 1821, Florida became a U.S. Territory. Duval was named United States Judge for the East Florida district on May 18, 1821. On April 17, 1822, President James Monroe appointed him as the first non-military governor of the territory, succeeding General Andrew Jackson. He was reappointed by President John Quincy Adams and President Andrew Jackson.

Edmund Skellings was named the Poet Laureate of Florida

1980 – Edmund Skellings was named the Poet Laureate of Florida, a lifetime appointment, by Governor Bob Graham on this date. Originally from Ludlow Massachusetts, Skellings studied English at UM Amherst, than pursued graduate studies at the University of Iowa. Even early in his career, Skellings was a proponent of young people learning to write well and study poetry. He began teaching at Florida Atlantic University in 1967 and began experimenting with early audio amplification, combining this new technology with his poems.

The St. Augustine City Council passed an ordinance authorizing the creation of tax-supported free schools

1832 - The St. Augustine City Council passed an ordinance today authorizing the creation of tax-supported free schools in the city.  This was one of the earliest such ordinances in the American South and in the nation. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States, founded by Pedro Menedez de Aviles in 1565. It was the administrative center for East Florida during the British Period (1763-1783) and the Second Spanish Period (1783-1821).

Federal army and naval forces continued evacuating Jacksonville

1863 - Federal army and naval forces continued evacuating Jacksonville on this date.  As they evacuated, Union soldiers set fire to much of the town.  Jacksonville was the center of Confederate military operations in Florida and the fires caused national outrage and debate over who was to blame. Rain helped to contain the fire, but the damage was already done as most of the city lay in ruins.   

Juan Ponce de Leon first sighted the Florida peninsula

1513 - Juan Ponce de Leon first sighted the Florida peninsula on this date, although he would not go ashore until April 2. The peninsula was sighted and mistaken for an island, which Ponce de Leon named “La Florida.” Ponce, who was most recently the Governor of Puerto Rico, set sail from that island on March 4th with three ships and approximately 200 men heading north towards an unknown landmass referred to as Biminy.

Miami’s first television station aired its first broadcast

1949 - WTVJ-TV, Miami’s first television station, aired its first broadcast at noon on this date. It was the first television station in Florida and only the 16th in the entire country. The station was originally owned by Wometco Enterprises and carried all four major networks of that era (NBC, CBS, ABC and Dumont). After 1964 the Jackie Gleason Show was produced at WTVJ. In 1984 Wometco sold the station to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) but by 1987 NBC purchased the station.

Pedro Menendez de Aviles received his settlement orders

1565 – Pedro Menendez de Aviles received his “asiento” or settlement orders from the Spanish government to travel to La Florida on this date. Two years earlier, Don Juan Mendedez, Pedro Menendez’s only son was lost in a wreck near the Bahamas and Menendez was determined to find him. He was also instructed to reconnoiter the gulf and east coasts, making detailed observations about the ports, currents, hazards, etc., and settle the new territory. The Spanish government also tasked Menendez with driving the French settlers out of La Florida.

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