Spessard Lindsey Holland
United States Senator
from Florida
In office
September 25, 1946 – January 3, 1971
Preceded byCharles O. Andrews
Succeeded byLawton Chiles
28th Governor of Florida
In office
January 7, 1941 – January 2, 1945
Preceded byFred P. Cone
Succeeded byMillard Caldwell
Member of the Florida Senate
from the 7th district
In office
Preceded byJohn J. Swearingen[1]
Succeeded byHarry E. King
Personal details
Born(1892-07-10)July 10, 1892
Bartow, Florida
DiedNovember 6, 1971(1971-11-06) (aged 79)
Bartow, Florida
Resting placeWildwood Cemetery
Bartow, Florida
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Mary Agnes Groover Holland
Alma materEmory College
University of Florida
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
United States Army Signal Corps Aviation Section
UnitCoast Artillery Corps
24th Flying Squadron
Battles/warsWorld War I

Spessard Lindsey Holland (July 10, 1892 – November 6, 1971) was an American lawyer and politician. He served as the 28th Governor of Florida from 1941 to 1945. and later as a US senator for Florida from 1946 to 1971.[2]

During his tenure as governor, he was mainly preoccupied with the preparations for World War II and the actual war itself.[3] With the death of United States Senator Charles O. Andrews he would be appointed by Governor Millard F. Caldwell on September 25, 1946 to serve out the rest of his term which was set to expire next January. However, he would be reelected during 1946 and would continue to serve as a Senator until he retired in January 1971. While serving as a Senator, his most notable action would be introducing the 24th Amendment.[4][5]

Early life and education

Holland as a football player at Emory.
Holland as a football player at Emory.

Holland was born at his family's home on 390 East Church Street in Bartow, Florida[6] on July 10, 1892. He was the son of Benjamin Franklin and Fannie Virginia Spessard. Spessard was one of three children in his family. Benjamin was a veteran of the American Civil War serving for the Confederacy and he would move to Bartow in 1882 creating the first abstract company in Polk County. His mother moved to Bartow in 1889 and was originally a teacher at the Summerlin Institute (now Bartow High School) prior to being married. Benjamin and Virginia would get married in September 1890 in Monroe County, West Virginia.[4]

He attended public schools, graduating from the Summerlin Institute in 1909. Holland graduated magna cum laude from Emory College (currently Emory University) in 1912, where he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. Holland would go on to teach high school in Warrenton, Georgia from 1912-14.[4]

In 1916, Holland began attending law school at the University of Florida. There he taught in the "sub-freshman department" (high school) of the university. He also became the first elected student body president and a member of the debating society. During his time at Emory and UF, he participated in track and field, football, basketball, and baseball; on one occasion, he played so well as a pitcher in an exhibition game against the Philadelphia Athletics that Connie Mack (the grandfather of Connie Mack III, who would one day hold the Senate seat Holland once occupied) offered him a contract (he declined).[4]

World War I service

Holland qualified to be a Rhodes Scholar, and was already a junior partner with R.B. Huffaker in the Huffaker & Holland law firm, but his plans were interrupted by World War I. Holland volunteered for service and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Coast Artillery Corps, where he was transferred to France and served in the brigade's JAG Corps as an assistant adjutant. At his request, Holland was later transferred to the 24th Aero Squadron, Signal Corps of the Army Air Corps. Here he served with Lt. George E. Goldwaithe as a gunner and aerial observer, gathering information and taking photographs in reconnaissance missions behind enemy lines. At various times he took part in battles at Meuse-Argonne, Champagne, St. Mihiel, and Lunéville, where he downed two enemy planes. On one mission, Holland's plane crash-landed in a crater; on December 11, 1918, Holland was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation, signed by John J. Pershing, noted:

First Lieutenant Spessard L. Holland, C.A.C. Observer 24th, Aero Squadron, distinguished himself by extra-ordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United States at Bois de Banthville, France, on October 15, 1918 and in recognition of his gallant conduct I have awarded him in the name of the President the Distinguished Service Cross."

Upon resigning his commission in July 1919, Holland was promoted to captain. Once back in the U.S., he toured for the Victory Loan Drive.[4] After that he would go to Fort Monroe, staying there until he resigned his commission in the army.[7] After that he resumed his law practice in Bartow.[4]

Early political career

After the war, Holland resumed his law practice in Bartow. This however, was short-lived, because Holland accepted an appointment as the Polk County prosecutor later that year. He served two years in the prosecutor's office, but left after being elected to a four-year term as a county judge in 1920. Holland was reelected in 1924, but left after the end of his second term in 1929. Holland returned to private law practice later that year, joining William F. Bevis in the law firm of Holland & Bevis. The firm grew rapidly, eventually becoming a large international law firm that still exists today as Holland & Knight.[4]

In 1932, Holland was elected to the Florida Senate, where he served eight years. During his term, Holland was noted for his strong advocacy for public schools; as a member of the school committee, he drafted and cosponsored the Florida School Code and supported legislation that raised teachers' pay and retirement benefits. Holland also supported worker's compensation, tax cuts, and unemployment insurance. He was strongly opposed to both the sales tax and the poll tax, which he helped repeal in 1937.[4]


1940 gubernatorial campaign

Holland announced that he was running to be governor on December 4, 1939. He considered running for US Senator but decided not to.[8] His campaign platform called for: expanding assistance to the elderly through increasing a tax on horse and dog tracks, making highways safer, continuing a ban on poll taxes for state elections, creating the Everglades National Park, giving state financial aid for economic development, regulating salary buyers, repealing the gross receipts tax, and improving working conditions in the state. He would also pitch himself as being hard on crime but for tourism in the state.[9]


Holland was an alternate Florida delegate to the 1940 Democratic National Convention. He was elected governor of Florida and on January 7, 1941 was sworn in for a four-year term. During his time as governor, Holland was noted for reforming the state tax system and supporting cigarette taxes to reduce a $4 million debt in the state budget. New property tax laws enacted during Spessard's term required uniform real estate assessments and only taxed the purchase of property. Early in his term, the teachers' retirement program began, and the financing of public schools became more stable. Spessard also recommended four amendments to the state constitution, all of which were eventually adopted. These four amendments provided for:


When Holland assumed office, his audience was concerned with affairs relating to World War II. He stated that he wished for peace but said that preparations should be made in the case of war. His preparations began when he decided to review $7 million in State Road Department contracts made during the tenure of the Cone administration. He and his wife attended Franklin Delano Roosevelt's third inauguration and while in Washington D.C. he spoke with federal authorities and the Floridian congressional delegation to try to get more money for defense road construction which he was successful in getting.[10] Florida saw an influx of military activities in it during the mobilization prior to entering World War II.[11]

On May 12, 1941 an 22-year-old African-American man named A.C. Williams, who was accused of raping a 12 year old girl and robbery, was abducted from a jail in Marianna and lynched. He had been arrested the previous day by Gadsden County Sheriff's deputy Dan Davis. During the early morning hours of May 12, when Davis was patrolling downtown Quincy on foot, a car stopped behind him and four masked men emerged. One of them told Davis at gunpoint to give Williams up to him. Davis took the four men with him to the jail. When the five arrived at the jail, they seized Williams. Davis was locked in a cell. Sheriff M.P. Luten, who was sleeping in his home located near the jail, was awoken by Davis' screaming. Williams was later be found lynched. The local community realized that inaction to the lynching might result in intervention by the federal government. Holland's response came in the form of calling for an investigation into the death of Williams, and he named Maurice Tripp as the special investigator. He did not say when he would take further action. A spokesperson for Holland said that Holland “would be able to reach a decision on whether any action by him against Quincy law enforcement authorities was justified. The pressure of legislative business on the governor was heavy, and the inquest transcript is long.” to give an impression that he was stalling when in reality he was shifting responsibility of the investigation. Tripp submited a report to Governor Holland on May 25, 1941. It was given to the US Department of Justice in July 1942, which reviewed it. The identity of those who killed him was never found.[12]

On July 15, President Roosevelt asked eight southeastern US states to adopt daylight savings times by moving time head one hour, as a way to conserve electricity for defense reasons. A drought had occurred in the Southeastern United States, which hampered much of the electricity generation by hydroelectric plants, and in some cases electricity shortages happened. Holland was one of two governors in the Southeast who did not accept his request, along with the Governor of Georgia, Eugene Talmadge. Talmadge straight up rejected the request, while Holland decided that he to wait to respond to President Roosevelt until the situation had been analyzed. On July 20, he wrote to President Roosevelt saying that he would not comply for several reasons, including: Florida mostly relied on electricity that wasnot generated from hydroelectric plants, its electricity supply was not affected by the drought, there was a single power line that transmitted excess electricity to other states, power plants experienced less than peak demand and were operating at less than maximum capacity and the single power line transmitting excess power was doing the maximum amount it could handle.[13]

When American involvement in World War II began with the attack on Pearl Harbor, Holland promoted new military bases in Florida and coordinated state defenses with the federal government. Governor Holland ordered the Florida Highway Patrol to be on standby to assist the Federal Bureau of Investigation with putting Japanese and other foreigners into custody.[14]

The impact of World War II was felt at a more personal level in Spessard Holland's life as well. One of his sons, Spessard Holland Jr., served as a Marine in the South Pacific. The family planted a victory garden and set up a chicken coop at the Governor's Mansion. His daughter Mary volunteered as an aircraft spotter, while his daughter Craney his wife Mary sewed squares to be used in quilts sent to US troops. The Mansion was opened to visitation by British soldiers who were training in the area. Mary Holland even corresponded with the mothers of the soldiers.[15]


When the United States entered World War II, German Admiral Karl Dönitz launched Operation Drumbeat starting in January 1942, in an effort to cause significant damage to American shipping along the Eastern seaboard and the Gulf Coast. U-boat activity on Florida's coasts lasted until April but did have a brief lull period in March. As a result of the U-boat activity, tourism declined in the state, and the idea of building the Cross Florida Barge Canal was revived. Holland was neutral on the canal compared to Senators Charles O. Andrews and Claude Pepper who were strongly in support of it. Holland said the reason behind his neutrality was because of the canal itself being incredibly controversial.[16]

An Office of Defense Transportation (ODT) poster encouraging travel that is only necessary
An Office of Defense Transportation (ODT) poster encouraging travel that is only necessary

Holland along with members of the state's congressional delegation met with the Office of Defense Transportation (ODT) Director on October 19, 1942. They emphasized to him that relaxing the railroad's schedule freeze would let elderly tourists from the Northern United States enjoy the state's warm climate. Holland himself said that it would allow for better fuel conservation and reduce the "chance of epidemics in crowded areas."; Holland also argued that with more restrictions towards travelling via car that Florida was now much more dependent on using railroads. Soon after the October 19 meeting, the director allowed for additional railroad passenger services between New York and Florida but refused the delegation's request for more train service to the state.[16]

During the 1942 general elections, Holland participated despite not being up for re-election. Holland participated by travelling throughout the state making public appearances in an attempt to generate interest in the election, trying to get a gas tax amendment passed. Hollan made a statewide radio address urging people to vote. That year nine amendments were on the ballot, and Holland backed three of them: an amendment that would streamline the process for amending the state constitution, the gas tax amendment and another that would create a state freshwater fish & game commission. All nine amendments passed that year with almost no opposition[17]


During 1943 there were calls for a special session of the statelegislature. State senator Wallace Sturgis, from Ocala, wanted a special session of the legislature to revise a 1943 absentee voting law to allow Floridians who were serving in the military outside of the state to register to vote. Sturgis later got the backing of the president pro-tempore of the Senate, Ernest F. Householder. Those wanting to repeal the cigarette tax also joined in with calling for a special session. Holland reacted to this by attempting to reduce enthusiasm towards a special session. In regards to the absentee voting law, Holland thought that it did a good job when it came to the first primary except in instances of those who became 21 prior to leaving the state. However, he thought it was not practical with a second primary as he thought it was very close in time to the first one along with being able to give and receive ballots as well. In terms of the cigarette tax, he thought that it would be safe to not repeal the cigarette tax in the case that if other taxes were to decrease it could serve as a supplement. Holland also cited potential changes in wartime restrictions. Having a special session would become a significant issue in the 1944 Democratic gubernatorial primaries.[16]

During a Governor's conference sometime during 1943 in Denver, Colorado, Holland promoted new railroad freight prices, helping the Florida economy.[18]

1944 & 1945

Holland was also an outdoorsman and environmentalist. Holland's negotiation of the purchase of Everglades wetland and marshland in 1944 helped lead to the establishment of the Everglades National Park in 1947.[18]

Holland's term ended on January 2, 1945, when Millard F. Caldwell took office.[18]

U.S. senator

On September 25, 1946 Holland assumed the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Charles O. Andrews, who had died a week earlier.[4] In November 1946 he defeated Republican J. Harry Schad to win a full six-year term.[19]

In 1952, he ran again for re-election winning a signifigantly larger margin of the vote (99.82%) than ln the previous race in 1946 (78.65%).[20] He, along with all other senators from the former Confederate states (except Lyndon B. Johnson, Estes Kefauver, and Albert Gore, Sr.), signed the 1956 "Southern Manifesto", which condemned the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), declaring that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional, and promised to resist its implementation. Holland was in favor of Alaskan and Hawaiian statehood. Holland was the first southerner to support statehood for Hawaii.[4] He also voted for Alaska Statehood Act[21] and the Hawaii Admission Act.[22] Along with Alaska's statehood, he would introduce the two Senators-elect of the Alaska's congressional delegation that were produced as a result of the Alaska-Tennessee Plan to the US Senate: Ernest Gruening and Bill Egan.[23]

Up for re-election in 1958, Holland was challenged by former U.S. Senator (and later U.S. Representative) Claude Pepper in the Democratic primary. After fending off Pepper's challenge, he easily defeated his Republican opponent, Leland Hyzer, in November to win a third term.

During the 87th Congress Holland introduced a constitutional amendment prohibiting states from conditioning the right to vote in federal elections on payment of a poll tax or other types of tax. Approved by both Houses of Congress in August 1962, the amendment was quickly ratified by the required three-fourths of the states (38), and in January 1964 became the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[5]

Described as being a Conservative Democrat, he believed in maintaining the filibuster and believed that civil rights were something that was a matter for the states. He would once say in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, "We'll stand up and fight as long as we can".[4]

He won a fourth term in 1964, this time defeating Republican Claude R. Kirk, Jr.. Then, in November 1969, at the age of 77, Holland announced that he would not seek re-election in 1970. He actively campaigned for Democrat Lawton Chiles, who defeated U.S. Representative William C. Cramer in the November 1970 election. Cramer had the endorsement of U.S. President Richard Nixon, and had handily defeated G. Harrold Carswell (whom Nixon had earlier nominated unsuccessfully to the United States Supreme Court) in the Republican primary. Chiles boasted that Cramer could bring "Nixon, Agnew, Reagan, and anybody else he wants. ... I'll take Holland on my side against all of them."[24]


Holland left office in January 1971. His activities were somewhat limited due to an increasingly severe heart condition. Holland died of a heart attack at his Bartow home on November 6, 1971 at age 79.

Personal life

Holland married Mary Agnes Groover on February 8, 1919 and they were together until his death. Together they had four children: Spessard Lindsey Holland Jr., Mary Grover Holland, William Benjamin Holland and Ivanhoe Elizabeth Holland. As of 2016 their youngest daughter, Ivanhoe Craney, is the only one that is still alive and she currently lives in Bartow.[4][15] Mary Holland would die after having a stroke in March 1975. In 1974, the city of Bartow would dedicate Mary Holland Park in honor of her.[25]

Holland's grandson Spessard Lindsey Holland III died on August 4, 2014.[26]

Holland was also a member of several fraternities during his life: Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Tau Omega and Phi Delta Phi.[4] His son Spessard Lindsey Holland, Jr. would be a nonregistered member of Phi Delta Phi.[27] He was involved with Freemasonry being a 33rd degree Shriner. Along with freemasonry he would be a member of: Sons of the American Revolution, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bartow's Kiwanis club and the Elks.[4] General James Van Fleet was a personal friend of Holland and did support him running for governor.[28]

He was described as being a conservationist and enjoyed doing birdwatching. Holland also liked hunting and fishing as well. Holland was a fan of baseball and football and did play tennis. For a hobby, he would collect books on Florida history. [4] While teaching in Georgia, he was known to have owned a motorcycle and did crash it many times and once was flung 60 feet from it and landed scrapping much of the skin from his back.[29]

Honors and degrees

He received several honorary degrees:

Several buildings and public facilities are named after Holland:


  1. ^ "Florida Senators". December 29, 2016. Archived from the original on December 29, 2016. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  2. ^ "Spessard Lindsey Holland - Florida Department of State". dos.myflorida.com. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  3. ^ "The Progressive Conservative". Florida Historical Society. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Stone, Spessard (2002) "An Extraordinary Floridia: A Profile of Spessard Lindsey Holland," Sunland Tribune: Vol. 28 , Article 8. Available at: https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/sunlandtribune/vol28/iss1/8
  5. ^ a b "Spessard L. Holland Dies at 79; Former Senator From Florida". The New York Times. New York City. November 7, 1971. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  6. ^ "Holland Bartow Birthplace and Present Home". The Polk County Record. March 1, 1940.
  7. ^ "BARTOW LOOKS INTO CAREER OF NATIVE SON". The Polk County Record. March 1, 1940. p. 2.
  8. ^ Evans, Jon S. (2011). "Weathering the Storm: Florida Politics during the Administration of Spessard L. Holland in World War II (thesis)". Florida State University Libraries. Retrieved September 4, 2021.
  9. ^ Evans, Jon S. (2011). "Weathering the Storm: Florida Politics during the Administration of Spessard L. Holland in World War II (thesis)". Florida State University Libraries. p. 35.
  10. ^ Evans, Jon S. (2011). "Weathering the Storm: Florida Politics during the Administration of Spessard L. Holland in World War II (thesis)". Florida State University Libraries. pp. 75–76.
  11. ^ Evans, Jon S. (2011). "Weathering the Storm: Florida Politics during the Administration of Spessard L. Holland in World War II (thesis)". Florida State University Libraries. p. 109.
  12. ^ Hobbs, Tameka (2004). "Hitler Is Here": Lynching in Florida during the Era of World War II.
  13. ^ Evans, Jon S. (2011). ""Weathering the Storm: Florida Politics during the Administration of Spessard L. Holland in World War II (thesis)"". Florida State University Libraries. pp. 109–110.
  14. ^ Evans, Jon S. (2011). ""Weathering the Storm: Florida Politics during the Administration of Spessard L. Holland in World War II (thesis)"". Florida State University Libraries. p. 136.
  15. ^ a b White, Gary (December 7, 2016). "Chidren adjusted to changes on the home front as WW II started". The Ledger. Retrieved September 15, 2021.
  16. ^ a b c Evans, Jon S. (2011). "Weathering the Storm: Florida Politics during the Administration of Spessard L. Holland in World War II (thesis)". Florida State University Libraries.
  17. ^ Evans, Jon S. (2011). "Weathering the Storm: Florida Politics during the Administration of Spessard L. Holland in World War II (thesis)". Florida State University Libraries. pp. 154–161.
  18. ^ a b c "Spessard Holland". Florida Veterans' Hall Of Fame Society. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  19. ^ "Our Campaigns - FL US Senate Race - Nov 05, 1946". Our Campaigns. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  20. ^ "Our Campaigns - FL US Senate Race - Nov 04, 1952". Our Campaigns. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  21. ^ "HR. 7999. STATEHOOD FOR ALASKA". govtrack.
  22. ^ "S. 50. STATEHOOD FOR HAWAII: PASSAGE". govtrack.
  23. ^ "Spessard Holland". Creating Alaska. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  24. ^ Billy Hathorn, "Cramer v. Kirk: The Florida Republican Schism of 1970", Florida Historical Quarterly (April 1990), p. 419
  25. ^ "Mary Holland a Political Force". The Ledger. August 19, 2009. Retrieved September 15, 2021.
  26. ^ "Spessard Holland Iii (1955–2014)". Tallahassee Democrat. August 6, 2014.
  27. ^ https://www.phideltaphi.org/search/search.asp?bst=lindsey+holland&cdlGroupID=&txt_state=&txt_country=
  28. ^ "Van Fleet Writes Praising Holland". The Polk County Record. March 1, 1940. Retrieved September 3, 2021.
  29. ^ "Spessard Holland Was Typical American Boy". The Polk County Record. March 1, 1940. Retrieved August 23, 2021.

Finley, Keith M. Delaying the Dream: Southern Senators and the Fight Against Civil Rights, 1938–1965 (Baton Rouge, LSU Press, 2008).

Party political offices Preceded byFred P. Cone Democratic nominee for Governor of Florida1940 Succeeded byMillard Caldwell Preceded byCharles O. Andrews Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Florida(Class 1)1946, 1952, 1958, 1964 Succeeded byLawton Chiles Political offices Preceded byFred P. Cone Governor of Florida1941–1945 Succeeded byMillard F. Caldwell U.S. Senate Preceded byCharles O. Andrews U.S. senator (Class 1) from Florida1946–1971 Served alongside: Claude Pepper, George Smathers, Edward J. Gurney Succeeded byLawton Chiles