Tampa Bay Times by Graig Pittman
June 24, 2019
Dear Gov. DeSantis,
You’re a Florida native, as am I. You were born in Jacksonville and grew up in Dunedin, while I’m Pensacola born and bred. I’m writing to you because I fear there’s a bit of our shared Florida history you may not be aware of.
The law used to require Florida’s schools to teach Florida kids about Florida history. These days that requirement seems as old-fashioned as requiring kids to learn to write cursive or telling school boards they don’t have to hand over tax dollars to corporations that want to do what public schools do.
Teachers used to make us memorize all 67 counties and some of the significant dates in Florida history, such as when Juan Ponce de Leon gave us our name (1513), and when we somehow bamboozled the rest of the states into letting us join them (1845). We also learned about Significant Figures in Florida History, such as Andrew Jackson, our first territorial governor — although the teachers never mentioned that he actually hated Florida and couldn’t wait to scoot back home to Tennessee.
One Significant Figure in Florida History we did not learn about, but should have, was Emory J. “Red” Cross. There should be a statue of the man in Tallahassee, and his face should be emblazoned on the wall of every county courthouse and city hall in the state.
Red Cross was a classic Florida character, a state legislator who strolled the marble halls of Tallahassee clad in a white suit, a Stetson and a string tie. The man invented his own nickname to make sure voters remembered him.