A History of the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame
Bruce J. Host, Colonel, USAF Retired
As of September 9, 2020
In 2010 while visiting with family in California, I was reading a copy of the Retired Officer’s Magazine and came across an article about the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame. It occurred to me that Florida, with 1.5 million veterans probably should have a similar institution. When I returned to Tallahassee that fall, I contacted Lt Gen Bob Milligan, USMC Retired, a personal friend, who was the acting Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, and Florida State Senator Mike Bennett who was also a friend and discussed the idea. They both thought it a good idea and were willing to pursue it as a legislative matter.
Under their guidance, in 2011, the Florida Legislature passed a bill creating the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame. The legislation placed the Hall of Fame under the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA) for administrative purposes but with the stipulation that no appropriated money was to be used. The FDVA selected nominees, the majority were former Governors, some of whom owned slaves, and sent the names to the Cabinet who rejected the nominees and directed that the legislation be rewritten. The Northeast wall of the main floor of the Capitol was dedicated in November 2011. It now contains the names of all members of the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame.
In 2012, the legislation was rewritten and establish the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame Council (Council). The Council is to be made up of appointees from each of the Florida Cabinet members – Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller and Secretary of Agriculture - as well as an appointee by the President of the Florida Senate, House of Representatives and the Director of the FDVA. The Council, acting under the oversight of the FDVA, was tasked to establish the rules for nomination of inductees, conduct the selection process, and provide the names of the selectees to the FDVA who would forward them to the Governor and Cabinet for final selection.
The Hall of Fame Bronze Plaques were created by the FSU Master Craftsman Studio on Gaines Street in Tallahassee at the cost of $26,558. This included the installation of the three Milled Bronze Plaques (36” x 67”) and a 14” Bronze Seal which is affixed above the Plaques. In addition, the names of inductees, at the cost of $35 per name scroll are affixed to the plaque, along with a year dated scroll at the cost of $75/year. The Bronze Plaques and Bronze Seal were installed in October 2013.
Appointments to the Council were made in late 2012. The initial Council was comprised of the following appointments: Governor – Rep. Larry Metz, Attorney General – Chris Hart, CFO – Dr. James Harrell, Agricultural Commissioner – Adrian Jackson, Senate President – Ray Quinn, House Speaker - Bruce Host, Director FDVA – Marlene’ Carter. Bruce Host was selected as first chair of the Council at its first meeting in December 2012. The second Council meeting was held in Largo at the FDVA Headquarters in February 2013. Nomination guidelines and form were approved, the logo/medal was created and the Hall of Fame web site and was developed by FDVA webmaster Mike Kirby. The Hall of Fame web site went live on February 27, 2013. The Council opened the application period, accepting nominations thru the web site, beginning March 1 and closing on June 1, 2013. The Council approved a schedule which called for the nominees to be reviewed and first class selected in June 2013. Nominees were to be forwarded to the FDVA in July and then to the Cabinet in August. The Cabinet was to approve nominees at their September meeting and inform FDVA so that notifications could be made, medals and plaque scrolls could be inscribed, certificates prepared and preparations made for the induction ceremony which was to be held on or about Veterans Day.
Forty-Five nominations were received in the first year and from those, the Council selected six veterans for induction. The Governor hosted a reception on Veterans’ Day for the inductees along with other veterans. The ceremony was held the following day on November 12th, 2013 in the Capitol cabinet room. The induction ceremony was followed by an unveiling for the wall plaque in the Capitol rotunda.
In 2014 eight of the 30 nominees were selected by the Council for induction. Those eight included three civil war veterans which included a former United States Senator Samuel Pasco, a former Florida Governor Edward Perry, and the founder of the Florida National Guard, Colonel David Lang. The FDVA did not believe the three qualified for induction and did not forward the three civil war veterans names to the Cabinet and five were selected for induction by the Cabinet at its February 2015 meeting. A request by the Council to the Florida Legislature for clarification of the law received a reply from Representative Dennis Baxley, Chairman of the Local and Federal Affairs Committee which stated in part that the three nominees, who were not included in the FDVA package to the Cabinet, did “not meet the criteria established by the Council.” The selection criteria state that “a nominee must have received an honorable discharge from the United States Armed Forces.” It was concluded that “if the Council wishes to make those who did not receive an honorable discharge from the United States Armed Forces eligible for membership in the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame then the Council should amend its criteria” it was concluded that the Council was not interested in doing that. The 2014 ceremony finally took place on July 6, 2015 in the Florida Capitol Cabinet Room. A reception for the inductees and their families was held at the Governor’s Mansion following the ceremony.
The class of 2015 contained eight inductees approved by the Florida Cabinet and inducted in the Cabinet Room on December 1, 2015. The induction ceremony was followed by a reception at the Governor’s Mansion. The Class of 2016 contained 11 inductees who were recognized at an induction ceremony in the Florida Capitol Cabinet room on November 9th, 2016. The 20 members of the class of 2017 were inducted at the Governor’s Mansion on November 27th, 2017. The Class of 2018 was inducted on December 4th 2018 following a cabinet meeting. The Class contained 20 inductees. No induction program was presented and certificates were later mailed to inductees. 16 members were inducted into the Class of 2019. A reception followed the induction ceremony in the State Capital Building.
As of 2019, 86 members have been inducted into the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame, it was concluded that this was a sufficient number to create a support group to provide financial and administrative assistance to the FDVA and the Florida Veterans Foundation who have been funding the funding for the Hall of Fame. On February 8, 2019, the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame Society was created. The first board meeting was held by phone on February 12, 2019. The Board selected Bruce Host as President, David Rose as Secretary and Herlena Washington as Treasurer. A 501(c) (3) non-profit status has been filed with the Internal Revenue Service and approved on March 21, 2019. Bylaws have been prepared for board approval and a bank account has been opened with Bank of America. A logo has been created and a web site has been launched to include the biographies of the Hall of Fame inductees.
20 new inductees have been accepted into the Class of 2020 Hall of Fame and 15 new members for the Class of 2021 bringing our total membership number to 121.