Albert W. Gilchrist
Florida Governor Albert W. Gilchrist.jpg
20th Governor of Florida
In office
January 5, 1909 – January 7, 1913
Preceded byNapoleon B. Broward
Succeeded byPark Trammell
Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
In office
1905
Preceded byCromwell Gibbons
Succeeded byEugene S. Matthews
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
In office
1903–1905
Preceded byR. E. Brown
Succeeded byWilliam H. Hooker
ConstituencyDeSoto County
In office
1893–1895
Preceded byT. O. Parker
Succeeded byO. T. Stanford
ConstituencyDeSoto County
Personal details
Born(1858-01-15)January 15, 1858
Greenwood, South Carolina
DiedMay 15, 1926(1926-05-15) (aged 68)
New York, New York
Political partyDemocratic
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
RankBrigadier General
UnitFlorida State Militia
Battles/warsSpanish–American War

Albert Waller Gilchrist (January 15, 1858 – May 15, 1926) was an American politician who served as the 20th governor of Florida. A Democrat, Gilchrist was born in South Carolina before moving to Punta Gorda, Florida. He was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1893 and served as speaker in 1905. Gilchrist is the namesake for Gilchrist County, Florida.

Early life and education

Born in Greenwood, South Carolina,[1] Gilchrist first attended Carolina Military Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity before attending the United States Military Academy at West Point. He would have graduated in 1882, but he did not because he was deficient in experimental philosophy after three years.[2]

Early career

Gilchrist became a civil engineer and real estate dealer before settling in Punta Gorda, Florida, to become an orange grower. He served in the Florida state militia until 1898, reaching the rank of brigadier general. Gilchrist went on to join the Company C, of the 3rd U.S. Volunteer Infantry, and served in the U.S. Army during the Spanish–American War in Cuba.[1] He reached the rank of captain in the regular army, before being discharged in 1899.[2]

Gilchrist as the Speaker of the Florida House in April 1905.
Gilchrist as the Speaker of the Florida House in April 1905.

Political career

In 1893, Gilchrist was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, serving until 1897. He represented DeSoto County, Florida. He returned in 1903, and in 1905 he became Speaker of the Florida House and left the legislature.[3][1]

Gilchrist was elected governor on November 3, 1908, taking the oath of office on January 5, 1909.[1] As governor, Gilchrist prioritized public health.[2] For instance, he promoted legislation for a pure food law, improved health conditions for state prisoners, a tuberculosis sanitarium, and a "hospital for impoverished crippled children."[1]

Also during his tenure as Governor, the Monteverde Industrial School was established, new counties were formed, and, following eight years of work, mainland Florida was finally connected to the Florida Keys via an overseas railroad.[1] He left office on January 7, 1913,[2] going on to unsuccessfully run for U.S. Senate in 1916 and serving as a delegate to the 1924 Democratic National Convention.[1]

Death

Gilchrist died on May 15, 1926, in New York, New York. Upon his death, the bachelor governor left a large portion of his estate to local orphans. He is buried at Indian Springs Cemetery on Indian Springs Road in Punta Gorda, Florida.[4][1]

Legacy

After hearing that the former Governor was dying in a New York hospital, the Florida Legislature quickly introduced and passed a bill naming Gilchrist County after him. The Gilchrist Bridge, which carries U.S. Route 41 south over the Peace River from Port Charlotte to Punta Gorda, is named after Gilchrist.[5]

Controversy

In 2020, Teddy Ehmann, president of the Charlotte County Historical Society, urged the Punta Gorda City Council to rename Gilchrist Park, of which Gilchrist was the namesake for. In his letter to the council, Ehmann called Gilchrist a "Southern racist" and asked the council to recognize the indigenous Calusa tribe.[6]

Theresa Murtha, director of the Punta Gorda History Center, called the proposal "outrageous". She pointed out Gilchrist's legacy as the only Governor of Florida from Punta Gorda, as well as his role in the foundation of the city.[6] Former cataloger Lynn Harrell claimed Gilchrist hired a crew of seven to eight black railroad employees, adding that "he wouldn’t have had a Black crew” if he was a racist.[6]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Gov. Albert Waller Gilchrist". Archived from the original on 2019-02-10. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Florida historical society (1909). Florida Edition: Makers of America, Vol. II. Atlanta, GA: A. B. Caldwell. p. 87. Retrieved 2009-04-02.
  3. ^ Ward, Robert (2010). The People of Lawmaking in Florida 1822 - 2010. Tallahassee, Florida: Florida House of Representatives.
  4. ^ Buccellato, Robert. "Florida Governors: Lasting Legacies by Robert Buccellato with a foreword by Gov. Wayne Mixson | Arcadia Publishing Books". Arcadiapublishing.com. Retrieved 2016-08-02.
  5. ^ Surresco, Mark (2021). "Albert W. Gilchrist". Punta Gorda History Center. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Bryson, Anna (July 8, 2020). "Proposal to rename Gilchrist Park criticized". Sun Port Charlotte. Retrieved December 28, 2020.
Party political offices Preceded byNapoleon B. Broward Democratic nominee for Governor of Florida 1908 Succeeded byPark Trammell Political offices Preceded byNapoleon B. Broward Governor of Florida January 5, 1909 – January 7, 1913 Succeeded byPark Trammell