As we teased earlier this month, we’re going to periodically take a closer look at the late US Senator George Smathers record as it’s become a subject of controversy among many activists here in Florida.
Smathers’ record is complicated and his ties to some of the leading figures in American history are indisputable.
Here is what is ahead for us on this subject:
- Multiple Florida History Podcasts on Smathers with some new guests and new materials. We’ve of course taken the 1950 US Senate Democratic Primary apart in past podcasts but we’ll take a fresh look at it as well as why so many leading figures in this state preferred the moderate to conservative Smathers to the incumbent Senator, the liberal Claude Pepper. My own view on this race is established which is that Smathers tactics and ultimate victory over the liberal icon Pepper helped usher in the era of McCartyism and intensified red-baiting in campaigns across America. But another side to this story exists, which is why so many wanted to see Pepper defeated. I will concede we have not covered this fairly at TFS to this point, and will aim to do so, in context.
- We’ll cover Smathers legacy as an early protector of Florida lands and environment.
- We will properly cover his record in context historically, on issues related to race, civil rights and voting rights. We’ll also look deeper at Florida politics of that era, and how radicalized it was on race. For every Leroy Collins and Robert King High, we had probably five Charley Johns and Sumter Lowry’s. Smathers own public statements on race are troubling but he always had an inherent pragmatism and moderation that many other Florida elected officials lacked at the time, so will explore that as well.
- We will also look deeper at his relationships with JFK, LBJ and Richard Nixon. Seldom in the history of our state has someone been so close to real power and influence which makes Smathers, whatever his other faults (Which we will cover) a truly unique figure in the history of our state.
- We will look at Smathers’ post-Senate legacy which includes large monetary gifts to his alma mater the Univesity of Florida (where he had captained the basketball team) and to his local school, the University of Miami.