WILLIAM SHERMAN JENNINGS, Florida’s 18th Governor, was born near Walnut Hill, Illinois, on March 24, 1863. He was educated in the public school system in Marion County, Illinois; graduated from Normal University in 1883; and attended the Union College of Law in Chicago. After moving to Florida in 1885, he established a law practice in Brooksville. Jennings entered politics in 1887 as a circuit court commissioner. He also served on the bench for Hernando County in 1888; was a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 1893 and 1895, serving as speaker in 1895; and was a presidential elector in 1896. In 1900 he won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was elected Governor of Florida. During his tenure, he endorsed a primary election practice that substituted the convention process of choosing candidates, thus resulting in the first statewide primary being held in 1902. Jennings also advocated conserving public lands and is recognized with draining and developing the Everglades. After finishing his term, Jennings was appointed general counsel of the state’s internal improvement fund. He also chaired the Ways and Means Committee of the Naval Stores Association and served as a member of the federal Reclamation and Drainage Commission. Governor William S. Jennings died on February 28, 1920, and he is buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida.
Florida State Archives holds the official papers of Governor Jennings as well as a collection of his family papers.
Ruthanne Vogel, University of Miami. “William Sherman Jennings, 1863-1920.” Everglades Biographies. Everglades Information Network & Digital Library Florida International University Libraries.
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.