Room 208 House History Audio Transcript

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Florida's first Constitution, drafted in 1838, created the House of Representatives. The House and the Senate together make up the Legislature. Voters elect members of the House, called Representatives, from districts based on population. Since 1972, there have been 120 House Districts. Located adjacent to the restored 1902 House Chamber, this exhibit room tells the history of the Florida House of Representatives including its leaders, and some of the accomplishments and scandals that have occurred in the House over the years. Some of the topics include: Florida’s Two-Party System, The Role of the Speaker, Some Notable Speakers, Impeachment Powers and finally Issues in the House. By the way, if you are interested in running for the Florida House you can find the qualifications listed here: members must be 21 years old, have lived in Florida for two years, and live in the district they represent. Representatives may serve a maximum of four consecutive two-year terms.

Until 1969, the legislature met every other year. Constitutional amendments in 1968 created annual sessions. While Florida was a one-party state for much of the 20th century, it is now a two-party state. Women have been elected to the Florida House since Edna Giles Fuller became the first woman Representative in 1929. African American Thomas V. Gibbs represented Duval County in the Florida House in the 1880s, but it wasn’t until 1968 that African Americans were again elected to the House. There is the example of Frank Williams who traveled to Tallahassee, waited three days to appear before a House Committee, then was given only a minute to speak. Williams asked, “What does an average citizen have to do to get heard by this committee?” The reply was, “Son, I suggest you be a member of the Legislature.” Williams replied, “Well, fellows, I’ll see you in November.” Williams won election and served from 1972 to 1984. In the exhibit case are election items such as handbills, bumper stickers and buttons from campaigns for the Florida House. The large mural in the northeast corner is of the Florida House of Representatives in the new Capitol in 1993.

This room was the office of the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives from 1902 to1923. Behind the protrusion in the southwest corner is the original 1845 chimney.