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Francis P. Fleming

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Francis P. Fleming's governor portrait. Fleming started the tradition of having the official portrait made.
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Francis P. Fleming's governor portrait. Fleming started the tradition of having the official portrait made.

Francis Philip Fleming (September 28, 1841December 20, 1908) was an American politician and the Fifteenth governor of Florida from 1889 to 1893. A Democrat, strong supporter of segregation and an enemy of civil rights for blacks, Fleming was a Confederate soldier and lawyer before he became governor.

Fleming was born in Panama Park (now part of Jacksonville) in Duval County, Florida. He spent his early years with his parents, Lewis Fleming and his second wife Margaret Seton, on their St. Johns River plantation, "Hibernia." Here on "Fleming Island," the family owned slaves. (The plantation narrowly escaped destruction at the hands of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry in mid-April 1864 when Colonel Guy V. Henry, a relative of the Fleming family, ordered it spared).

During the American Civil War, Fleming served the Confederate cause by enlisting as a private in the 2nd Florida Regiment and received a battlefield promotion to First Lieutenant, and subsequently to the rank of Captain. After being wounded, Fleming returned to Florida and actively enlisted new volunteers, commanding a volunteer company at the Battle of Natural Bridge at St. Marks on March 6, 1865. By the end of the war, Fleming has served under four generals: John Magruder, Joseph Johnston, John Bell Hood, and Robert E. Lee.

After the war, Francis Fleming studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1868, becoming a partner in the firm of Fleming and Daniel, later Fleming and Fleming. In 1871, he married Florida Lydia Pearson, the daughter of Florida Supreme Court justice Bird M. Pearson. Together the couple had three children: Francis Philip Jr., Elizabeth Fleming, and Charles Seton.

Fleming later entered politics, and became the fifteenth governor of Florida on January 8, 1889, serving until January 3, 1893, the sole term provided by state law at that time. Fleming, a segregationist, Southern nationalist, and partisan Democrat, sought to limit the power of the carpetbagger- and blacks-dominated Republican Party. Fleming signed into law restrictive poll taxes and "literacy" tests designed to limit the voting rights of blacks and carpetbaggers not protected by the grandfather clause. Fleming also removed from office Florida's only black judge, James Dean of Monroe County, because he had married a white man to a black woman. Other notable events during Fleming's term include:

  • The creation of a state Board of Health to stop a yellow fever epidemic that was sweeping the state;
  • The repeal of the Florida Railroad Commission, at the urging of railroad baron Henry Flagler;
  • The start of a reorganization of higher education institions;
  • Adjustment of state revenues;
  • The Farmers' Alliance movement;
  • The 1891 reelection dispute of Senator Wilkinson Call.

Fleming later advocated adding a Confederate-style red saltire, or cross, to the Florida flag, in order to distinguish it from a flag of surrender (the flag at that time was a white flag with the Florida seal in the center). The current state flag, adopted in 1900 by referendum, features the Confederate emblem. Fleming also began the tradition of having an official portrait painted and hung in the state capitol.

After he left office, Fleming served on the board of trustees of the new Florida Old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Home. On December 20, 1908, Fleming died following a long illness. He is buried at the Old City Cemetery in Jacksonville.

Facts

Fleming Island, Florida (an un-incorporated community in between Orange Park and Green Gove Springs in Clay County, Florida is named after his family.

External links

  • Fleming Biography (http://dhr.dos.state.fl.us/museum/collections/governors/about.cfm?id=22) A short biography of Fleming's life, as well as his govenor's portrait. From the Florida Department of State, Office of Cultural and Historical Programs.
  • Fleming Family Letters (http://www.unf.edu/library/per/flemingfamilyletters.html) A collection of 113 letters and other writings of Francis P. Fleming and the Fleming Family from 1879 to 1930. Compiled by the University of North Florida.
Preceded by:
Edward A. Perry
Governors of Florida Succeeded by:
Henry L. Mitchell
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