Spessard Holland

Spessard Lindsey Holland
United States Senator
from Florida
In office
September 25, 1946  January 3, 1971
Preceded by Charles O. Andrews
Succeeded by Lawton Chiles
28th Governor of Florida
In office
January 7, 1941  January 2, 1945
Preceded by Fred P. Cone
Succeeded by Millard F. Caldwell
Member of the Florida Senate
In office
Personal details
Born (1892-07-10)July 10, 1892
Bartow, Florida
Died November 6, 1971(1971-11-06) (aged 79)
Bartow, Florida
Resting place Wildwood Cemetery
Bartow, Florida
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Agnes Groover Holland
Children 4
Alma mater Emory College
University of Florida
Religion Methodist
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
United States Army Signal Corps Aviation Section
Rank Captain
Unit Coast Artillery Corps
24th Flying Squadron
Battles/wars World 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 as a United States Senator from Florida from 1946 to 1971. A Democrat, he was a member of the conservative coalition in Congress.

Early life and education

Spessard as a football player at Emory.

Holland was born in Bartow, Florida, the son of Benjamin Franklin and Virginia Spessard Holland, a teacher. He attended public schools, entering the Summerlin Institute (now Bartow High School) 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 for four years.

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).

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 and resumed his law practice in Bartow.

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.

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.

Florida governor

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 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.

At a 1943 governors' conference in Denver, Colorado, Holland promoted new railroad freight prices, helping the Florida economy. 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. Holland's term ended on January 2, 1945, when Millard F. Caldwell took office.

As senator

Holland was elected in 1946 to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Charles O. Andrews. Following the death of Senator Andrews in September 1946, Holland assumed his seat in the U.S. Senate. Re-elected in 1952, Holland defeated former U.S. Senator (and later U.S. Representative) Claude Pepper in the 1958 Democratic primary. Returned to the U.S. Senate in 1958, Holland was re-elected to a fourth and final term in 1964, having defeated Republican Claude R. Kirk, Jr., who two years later was elected governor.

At the age of seventy-seven, Holland announced in November 1969 that he would not seek re-election in 1970. He subsequently campaigned for his fellow Democrat and Polk County resident Lawton Chiles, a state senator from Lakeland, who defeated in the general election the Republican U.S. Representative William C. Cramer of St. Petersburg. Cramer carried the backing of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon; in the primary he had handily defeated G. Harrold Carswell, a Nixon nominee to the United States Supreme Court who was rejected by the Senate. 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."[1]

Along with all other senators from the former Confederate states (except Lyndon B. Johnson, Estes Kefauver, and Albert Gore, Sr.), Holland signed the "Southern Manifesto", which condemned the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education and promised to resist its implementation. Ten years later, in 1964, Holland sponsored the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibiting the poll tax.


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.


Holland married Mary Agnes Groover on February 8, 1919 and they were together until his death. Together they had four children. Currently, their youngest daughter, Ivanhoe Craney, is the only one that is still alive. She currently lives in Bartow. Holland's surviving grandchildren reside in New York, Virginia, California, and Florida. His grandson Spessard Lindsey Holland III died August 4, 2014.[2]

Degrees, honors, and affiliations

Throughout his life Holland was involved in multiple civic, fraternal, and collegiate institutions. He received several honorary degrees:

Holland was also a member of several organizations, including:

He was not a member of Phi Delta Phi, although his son, Lindsey Spessard Holland, Jr. was a member. Lindsey Spessard Holland, Sr. was unaffiliated. (See PDP Website Search)

Several buildings and public facilities are named after Holland:


  1. Billy Hathorn, "Cramer v. Kirk: The Florida Republican Schism of 1970", Florida Historical Quarterly (April 1990), p. 419
  2. "Spessard Holland Iii (1955–2014)". Tallahassee Democrat. August 6, 2014.

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

Political offices
Preceded by
Fred P. Cone
Governor of Florida
Succeeded by
Millard F. Caldwell
United States Senate
Preceded by
Charles O. Andrews
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Florida
Served alongside: Claude Pepper, George Smathers, Edward J. Gurney
Succeeded by
Lawton Chiles
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