The Heart of the Legislature...50 Years Ago


Post # 201, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary


A look back at why Florida was voted the best Legislature in the Country by all the legislators.




I have found over the years that this Commentary has somewhat taken on a life of it's own. As my readers know the Commentary along with my Quorum Call have been published for a number of years to highlight members of the Florida Legislature, Staff, Lobbyists, and the Press. I try to look at their works, good and bad for the people of Florida. I am blessed that my memory is hanging on, so I will try to take advantage of that recall with this post.


The Golden Age of the Florida Legislature is generally regarded of the '70's and '80's due to Florida's decade reapportionment and the people elected to serve Florida. Probably the best know legislative staffer was the distinguished Clerk Emeritus of the Florida House of Representatives Dr. Allen Morris. I served with him and his reputation was accurate. He was a giant of Florida History, a great member of the press from the Miami Herald, and a delightful man. He is missed every day in the Capitol. Here are a list of 23 other great people with whom Allen served that kept the Florida Legislature the most respected and independent in the Country during the Golden Years:


Florida House of Representatives

Dr. Allen Morris, Clerk Emeritus

John Phelps, Clerk Emeritus and currently Staff Director, Senate Rules Committee

Sergeant at Arms Earnie Sumner--Retired from the House of Representatives.

Staff Director Tom Herndon--Retired from Florida Government, Serving as Chief of Staff to Governor.

Staff Director Peter Mitchell--Retired from Federal Government, Serving as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.

Staff Director David Coburn--Retired from State Government, Serving as FSU Athletic Director.

Staff Director Marjorie Turnbull--Former Member of the House and Leon County Commissioner.

Staff Director Dr. Gus Turnbull--Late Respected Staff Director of House Education Committee.

Staff Director Susan Mabe--Long time Washington D.C. lobbyist

Staff Director India Keyes--Married to Retired Sergeant at Arms Ernie Sumner.

Mail Manager Milton Burns--Retired from the Florida House of Representatives.


Florida Senate

Senator and Secretary Elmer Friday--Late Retired Lee County Judge.

Executive Director Howard Walton--Late Respected and Powerful Manager of the Senate.

Secretary Faye Blanton--Retired from the Florida Senate.

Staff Director Mary Jo Barron--Married to Dean of the Florida Senate, Dempsey Barron.

Staff Director John Andrew Smith--Retired From the Florida Senate After Appropriations Staff.

Staff Director Patsy Eccles--Retired from the Florida Senate after Appropriations Staff.

Staff Director Bev Whiddon--Retired from the Florida Senate after Health and Rehabilitative Serves Staff.

Staff Director Sandi Walters--Retired from the Florida Senate after Rules Staff.

Staff Director Bill Preston--Retired from the Florida Senate after Natural Resources Staff.

Sergeant at Arms Wayne Todd--Retired from the Florida Senate.

Sergeant at Arms Don Severance--Retired from the Florida Senate.


Joint Legislative Management Bill Drafting

Dr. Ernie Means--Retired from the Florida Senate.


There are of course many more names that I have not listed, but it is not because of their lack of contribution. These just happened to be the names of legislative staff with which I often had contact. They are great people all and I wanted at least some of them know that I for one remember them and honor their service to Florida. According to a vote of the legislators in the country in the early '70's, Florida was voted the most independent and best legislature in the country.





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