THOMAS LEROY COLLINS, the 33rd Governor of Florida and the first to be elected to two consecutive terms, was born in Tallahassee, Florida, on March 10, 1909. He attended the Eastman School of Business in New York, and earned a law degree from Cumberland University in 1931. Collins entered politics in 1935 as a member of the Florida House of Representatives, a position he held until 1940. He also served as a member of the Florida State Senate from 1940 to 1953. Collins won the 1954 Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was elected in a special election that was held to fill the unexpired term of Governor Daniel McCarty. He was reelected to a second term in 1956. During his tenure, he advocated for improving Florida’s public school system, and he established the state’s first community colleges. He also endorsed a more diverse economy, he encouraged state-sponsored tourism, promoted agriculture and industry, and was a proponent of creating good race relations. Collins also chaired the Southern Governors’ Conference and the National Governors’ Conference during his term. After leaving office on January 3, 1961, Collins served as president of the National Association of Broadcasters, and he was the first director of the Community Relations Service. He was appointed in 1965 as the undersecretary of commerce, was a published author, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1968, and served on numerous commissions and boards. Governor Thomas L. Collins died on March 12, 1991, and he is buried at the family graveyard in Leon County, Florida.
Florida State Archives holds the official papers of Leroy Collins.
- Thomas Leroy Collins Papers, Special Collections, Robert Manning Strozier Library, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
- Leroy Collins Papers, University of South Florida Tampa Library Special Collections Department, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.