Tag Archives: Florida political history

Claude Pepper Library 101

Welcome back students, staff and faculty to another Fall Semester here at FSU! Here on campus and around town, there are some really great locations and spaces for learning and engaging with the past. One space in particular is the Claude Pepper Library at FSU. The Claude Pepper Library was established in 1985 as the official repository for the Claude Pepper Papers, a unique and multi-faceted collection of manuscripts, photographs, audio/video recordings, and memorabilia documenting the life and career of U.S. Senator and Congressman Claude Denson Pepper (1900-1989).

Congressman Pepper in his office, ca. 1980.
Congressman Pepper in his office, ca. 1980.

Since the library’s opening over 30 years ago, the holdings at the Claude Pepper Library, located on West Call Street on the FSU Campus, have grown in size and scope. The Pepper is currently home to 17 collections with varying focuses including the Tallahassee National Organization for Women Chapter Records, The Reubin Askew Papers, and The Thomas LeRoy Collins Papers among others.

Our staff currently consists of Claude Pepper archivist Robert Rubero and archives assistant Mallary Rawls. The mission of the Claude Pepper Library is to support and advance research, teaching and engagement by acquiring, preserving and providing access to collections dealing with the political history of the State of Florida on national and local levels for use by students, faculty and researchers worldwide. The focus of our current major project is the digitization of the Claude Pepper diaries, which chronicle over 40 years of political involvement through the late Senator’s eyes.

An example of memorabilia found in the NOW Chapter Records.
An example of memorabilia found in the NOW Chapter Records.

At the Pepper Library we also enjoy posting to our Facebook page and enjoy updating our followers through our “Today in Pepper History” posts. More importantly, we offer patrons a firsthand experience with primary source materials from a variety of creators, all giving a glimpse into the political landscape in the State of Florida with a range of over 75 years. The Pepper Library has regularly hosted archives training sessions, class tours and guest lecturers and plans to continue these events in the future. There is also a museum component located in the Pepper Center which chronicles the life of Senator Pepper and is based on his book, Eyewitness to a Century.

Stay tuned for future blog posts as we bring you more great examples from our collections here at the Pepper Library!

Claude Pepper’s Time in Tallahassee

By Mallary Rawls

On May 15th this year the Claude Pepper Library will turn 30! Throughout this month and the rest of the year, the team at the Claude Pepper Library will be providing some history and context about the library and its namesake.

“For more than six decades, Florida has been my home.[i]” That’s how Claude Pepper began the second chapter of his 1987 autobiography, Pepper: Eyewitness to a Century. Claude Denson Pepper loved the State of Florida and many of its lively cities, one of those cities he loved was Tallahassee.

The Pepper's family home in Tallahassee, July 1957.
The Pepper’s family home in Tallahassee, July 1957.

Claude Pepper was born in Camp Hill, Alabama in 1900. Though Claude lived an adventurous life where he was constantly working and traveling, he and his wife, Mildred, chose to build a life in Tallahassee for a period of time. Claude graduated from the Harvard Law School in 1924 and began practicing law in 1925 after he was admitted to the Florida Bar. He practiced civil and criminal law at a law practice in Perry, Florida and from 1929 to 1930, Claude served as an elected member of the Florida House of Representatives, representing Taylor County. Claude spent a lot of time going back and forth between Perry and Tallahassee during this time in his life. He served as a chairman for the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and was a member on a number of committees. It was his stand against another Florida representative that led to his defeat for re-election in 1930. It was after Claude’s defeat in 1930 that propelled him to move to Tallahassee. Claude was urged to continue his political path after his 1930 Florida House of Representatives loss by Judge W.B. Davis who told Claude that he needed a, “more visible stage (in) either Tallahassee or Miami.[ii]” Claude was advised by others to move to Tallahassee as well.

“I was urged also to come to Tallahassee by Justice James B. Whitfield, the patriarch and former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, whom I had come to know during my legislative days. Often he told me: ‘Mr. Pepper, I want you to move to Tallahassee. Florida needs you and this is the capital of Florida. Tallahassee will offer you an opportunity to serve Florida.[iii]’”

Claude moved to Tallahassee in 1930 and by 1931 he was able to move his family, which included his parents, two brothers, and a sister as well. While living in Tallahassee Claude ran a successful

Mildred and Claude Pepper at Lake Bradford, 1940.
Mildred and Claude Pepper at Lake Bradford, 1940.

law office with law partner Curtis Waller. Claude also served on the State Board of Public Welfare. It was around this time he was introduced to Mildred Webster. Claude was stunned by a woman in a “bright yellow dress” leaving the governor’s office, “why that’s the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen[iv]” Claude said to himself before he was introduced to Irene Mildred Webster. She lived in St. Petersburg but was in Tallahassee at the time working for the state legislature. They dated on and off for a period of five years. Mildred helped Claude kicked off a primary senate campaign against then sitting U.S. Senator Park Trammell in 1934 while living in Tallahassee, but he lost the primary in a close election. Nearly two years later in 1936 both U.S. Senators representing Florida died, Park Trammell in early 1936 and then five weeks later Duncan Fletcher died. Claude filed to run for Senator Fletcher’s seat and no one filed to run against him.

Claude Pepper ran unopposed in the 1936 election and became U.S. Senator Pepper. It was also at the end of this year on December 29, 1936 that Claude and Mildred were married. Through his U.S. Senate service (1936-1950) Claude and Mildred kept residences in both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.

Claude lost his 1950 re-election campaign in one of the most brutal and slanderous elections in U.S. history to George Smathers. After his defeat in 1951 Claude opened up a law practice in

Tallahassee with his law partner and friend Jim Clements. Things were a bit shaky at this point, especially with the law offices in Tallahassee, but Claude stayed close to politics and regularly visited Florida State University to talk with loyal supporters, including the student body president at the time, Reubin Askew. On March 2, 1951 Claude’s law partner and longtime friend, Jim Clements died. Claude’s mother, Lena Pepper and other family members were still living in Tallahassee, but around the mid-1950s Claude and Mildred were going back and forth between all of the law offices between Florida and Washington, D.C.

Claude & Mildred Pepper at the inauguration of Governor Fuller Warren; January 4, 1949
Claude & Mildred Pepper at the inauguration of Governor Fuller Warren; January 4, 1949

Claude campaigned for the U.S. Senate again in 1958 for the Republican Senate seat that belonged to Spessard Holland, but Holland won his re-election. The good news that came out of that election for Claude would be that he carried Dade County by 25,000 votes and that weighed in on his decision to run for the U.S. House of Representatives representing a new district in Florida. Claude won that campaign and served his district and country as a U.S. Congressman for the rest of his life.

Claude and Mildred Pepper maintained their close friendships and relationships in Tallahassee during this time. In January 1979, Mildred and Claude attended the Inauguration of Governor Bob Graham. At this time plans were established to build a library dedicated to the life of Mildred and Claude Pepper at Florida State University.

Mildred Pepper died from cancer on March 3, 1979. Claude held two funerals for his beloved wife, one at the Coral Gables Methodist Church in Miami and the other at the First Baptist Church where she and Claude worshiped while living in Tallahassee.

Claude remained active and vigilante while serving in the U.S. Congress. The Mildred and Claude Pepper Library opened here at Florida State University on May 15, 1985. The original library was located in Dodd Hall and moved to Call Street in 1997. Claude Pepper lived an ambitious and productive life of 89 years where he worked hard and accomplished many great things. We’re honored that he chose to spend an exceptional amount of time carrying out that work in Tallahassee.

[i] C. Pepper, H. Gorey, Pepper: Eyewitness to a Century, Orlando, 1987, p.33

[ii] Ibid, p.43

[iii] Ibid, p.43

[iv] Ibid, p.50George

The Spessard Holland Photograph Collection Illustrates Three Decades of Florida Political History

Newly appointed Senator Spessard Holland working at his desk in Florida
Newly-appointed Senator Spessard Holland working at his desk in Florida (1946)

The Claude Pepper Library is home to a collection of over 2,000 photographs from Spessard Holland’s long career representing Florida in the United States Senate and as its 28th governor. These images provide a glimpse into his work on behalf of the state of Florida and with many of the preeminent political figures of the 20th century.

Spessard Holland, far left, with the 24th Aero Squadron in France during World War I
Spessard Holland, far left, with the 24th Aero Squadron in France during World War I

Holland was a lifelong resident of Bartow, Florida. He was born in the central Florida town to Benjamin F. and Virginia Holland in 1892. Despite leaving several times – to Atlanta to earn a bachelor’s degree at Emory University, then to Gainesville to study Law at the University of Florida, and to France during his service in the Army Air Corps during World War I – he always returned to his hometown. He was interred in Bartow in 1971 upon his death. The earliest photographs in the series include portraits of Holland as a child and with his fellow service men while stationed in Paris. However the majority of the images, taken during his thirty years in office, are devoted to Holland’s political work.

Governor Spessard Holland visiting a base in Florida during the second World War
Governor Spessard Holland visiting a military base in Florida during World War II

During the United States involvement in World War II, Holland served as the 28th Governor of Florida. He oversaw Florida’s participation in the wartime defense effort and the development of infrastructure to support this growth. The series of photographs illustrates Holland’s term in office from Election Day in 1940 through his departure in 1945. These images document Florida’s vital work during World War II at military bases, air fields, and shipyards; as well as Holland’s work on issues of tax reform and sponsoring Florida agriculture, which would remain central policy positions throughout his career. The collection also contains several family photos taken during Holland’s term as governor. These depict Mary Groover Holland in her duties as first lady as well as informal photos of family life in the Governor’s mansion in Tallahassee and throughout Florida.

President Truman arriving in Florida for the dedication of Hendricks Field being greeted by Senator Spessard Holland, Senator Claude Pepper, and Governor Millard Caldwell
President Truman greeted on arrival in Florida by Senators Spessard Holland and Claude Pepper
President Lyndon Johnson at the 1964 certification of the 24th Amendment, which had been sponsored by Spessard Holland
Sponsor Spessard Holland with President Johnson at the 1964 certification of the 24th Amendment

Governor Millard Caldwell appointed Spessard Holland to the United States Senate on September 25, 1946 following the death of Charles O. Andrews. Holland was formally elected to the seat in November of that year and served four consecutive terms until his retirement in 1971. The political changes that occurred over this quarter century can be witnessed in the collection. Holland’s relationship with the each Presidential administration, working most closely with fellow Democrats Truman and Johnson, is tacit in the images. Frequent travel, a significant part of the Senator’s life, is documented in this collection. Holland would attend events throughout Florida before returning to his senatorial office in Washington D.C., as well as congressional trips to Central America and up to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Spessard Holland meeting with Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins
Spessard Holland meeting with Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins

Holland was committed to the success of the Florida space program. The collection contains images from his frequent trips to the Florida Space Coast taken during his ten years of service on the National Aeronautical and Space Committee. These show visits to launch and training sites as well as the crowds watching the subsequent lift-off. Holland met with the crew of Apollo 11 and the Mercury 7 astronauts, receiving inscribed photographs from Gus Grissom, John Glenn, and Alan Shepard.

Senator Spessard Holland meeting with Senator Claude Pepper and Florida Democratic Representatives to discuss VA Hospitals (1949)
Senator Spessard Holland meeting with fellow Florida Democratic Congressmen to discuss VA Hospitals (1949)

Over three decades, the photographs document Spessard Holland’s close relationships with many prominent political figures in Florida, Washington, D.C., and Latin American. Perhaps the most visible of his colleagues were his corresponding Florida Senator Claude Pepper and later George Smathers. The public life of a United States congressman – attending committee meetings, visiting with constituents, luncheons with interest group, and campaign banquets – were often done in conjunction with these men and his fellow Florida representatives.

The images are only part of the Spessard Holland collection. The photographs are held at the Claude Pepper Library along with biographies on Holland’s life, personal correspondence, campaign files, Floridiana, and memorabilia. More images of Spessard Holland during his terms of office can be seen in the Claude Pepper Digital Photograph Collection.

Spessard Holland and Allen Morris looking at a photograph from Holland’s governorship from the collection given to Strozier Library in 1971
Spessard Holland and Allen Morris looking at a photograph from Holland’s governorship, part of the collection given to Strozier Library in 1971

Introducing the Claude Pepper Library

The Claude Pepper Library was established in 1985 as the official repository for the Claude Pepper Papers, a unique and multi-faceted collection of manuscripts, photographs, audio/video recordings, and memorabilia documenting the life and career of U.S. Senator and Congressman Claude Pepper (1900-1989).

A campaign card from Claude's 1938 senate bid.
A campaign card from Claude’s 1938 senate bid.

Since that time, the holdings at the Claude Pepper Library, located on West Call Street on the FSU Campus, have grown in size and scope. The Pepper is currently home to 17 collections with varying focuses including the papers of lobbyists, governors, political action groups and those dealing with landmark legal cases.

Our staff consists of Claude Pepper librarian Robert Rubero, archives assistant Mallary Rawls and part time assistant Maria Meade. The mission of the Claude Pepper Library is to support and advance research, teaching and engagement by acquiring, preserving and providing access to collections dealing with the political history of the State of Florida on national and local levels for use by students, faculty and researchers worldwide.

Tallahassee National Organization for Women parade banner ca. 1970's.
Tallahassee National Organization for Women parade banner ca. 1970’s.

At the Pepper Library we also enjoy posting to our Facebook page and enjoy updating our followers through our “Today in Pepper History” posts. More importantly, we offer patrons a firsthand experience with primary source materials from a variety of creators, all giving a glimpse into the political landscape in the State of Florida with a range of over 75 years. The Pepper Library has regularly hosted archives training sessions, class tours and guest lecturers and plans to continue these events in the future. There is also a museum component located in the Pepper Center which chronicles the life of Senator Pepper and is based on his book, Eyewitness to a Century.

Recent projects include the online ingestion of over 6,000 photos from the Pepper Papers, all of which can currently be seen in the FSU Digital Library.

Stay tuned for future blog posts as we bring you more great examples from our collections here at the Pepper Library!

Former Florida governor Spessard Holland during World War I ca. 1918.
Former Florida governor Spessard Holland during World War I ca. 1918.