Levin College of Law

Spessard L. Holland


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Spessard L. Holland

Called by President Lyndon Johnson, “one of five most powerful men in the Senate.” In response to reporter’s question, President Dwight Eisenhower named him as “THE Democrat who would make an outstanding president.” ABC Newsman/Commentator Howard K. Smith said he was “the most respected member of the U.S. Senate over the longest period of time.” Back home, he is called by many experts, “the greatest Floridian ever,” and by others, “the greatest Governor Florida ever had.” And from a small two-man law office in Bartow in 1916, he changed, grew and merged the firm into one of the world’s largest.

Born 1892, in Bartow. Married Mary Agnes Groover (born in Fort White) in Lakeland, 1919, and they had four children: Spessard Lindsey Holland Jr., UFLaw ‘48 (1921-1989); Mary Groover Holland (1924-1997); William Benjamin Holland, UFLaw ‘49 (1926-1974); and Ivanhoe Holland Craney.

College Education / Achievements

  • Ph.B. Emory College (now University), magna cum laude, 1912; Alpha Tau Omega, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Delta Phi; lettered in football, baseball, basketball, track; inducted posthumously into Emory Athletic Hall of Fame, 1992.
  • University of Florida College of Law, 1916; student body president, lettered in baseball (offered Philadelphia Athletics pro baseball contract by Connie Mack)
  • Honorary degrees: Universities of Tampa, Miami, Emory, Florida State, Florida; Florida Southern College
  • Honored by UF College of Law, 1969, with naming of Holland Law Center

Legal Experience

  • Practiced law in Bartow starting in 1916
  • Served as Brigade Judge Advocate in France, World War I, with 31st Artillery Brigade.
  • Polk County Prosecuting Attorney, 1919-20
  • Judge, Polk County, 1921-29
  • Founded law firm in 50s that grew and changed partners until ‘68, when it merged with Tampa firm to become Holland & Knight, LLP (among 15 largest firms in world).

Non-Legal Achievements

  • High School Teacher, Warrenton, GA, 1912-14
  • World War I, 24th Squadron, Army Air Corps; Distinguished Service Cross
  • Trustee, Southern College, 1932-35
  • Trustee, Emory University, 1943-46

Associations / Organizations / Honors

  • Florida Senate, 1932-40
  • Governor of Florida, 1941-45
    • Promoted establishment of military bases in state, instrumental in creation of Everglades National Park, created independent Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, pushed Gasoline Tax Amendment (road building), laid tax foundation for modernizing state’s public school system
  • United States Senator, 1946-71(elected four times, served five presidents)
    • Drafted, sponsored 24th Constitutional Amendment (outlawing poll tax as prerequisite to voting); introduced Tidelands Act (guaranteeing states’ ownership of submerged lands).
    • One of original sponsors of statehood for Alaska, first Southerner to support Hawaii statehood.

Published: June 26th, 2014

Category: Alumni

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