Doyle Elam Carlton, Jr.
By Spessard Stone
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." - Shakespeare, Twelfth Night. And some fit all three categories.
Doyle Elam Carlton, Jr., was born July 4, 1922, Tampa, Florida. He was the youngest of three children of Doyle Elam Carlton and Nell Ray Carlton. As a child, he lived in the Governor's Mansion from 1929-33 when his father, an attorney, served as Governor of Florida
In Tampa, he early showed qualities of leadership. He was elected president of the Student Body of Woodrow Wilson Junior High School and also received the American Legion Medal as the school's outstanding graduate. At Plant High School, his activities included captain of the basketball team, all Big-10 football, track team, and president of the Student Body; he was named best all-around graduate and was receipient of the American Legion Medal.
Doyle in the fall of 1940 entered the University of Florida to major in Business Administration. He was a member of the SAE fraternity, Executive Council, and captain of the basketball team in his junior year.
During World War II, Doyle in 1942 enlisted in the Army Air Corps Reserve and was called to active duty in March 1943. He served stateside at Danville, Kentucky, Sebring, Fla., and Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Ala. After serving 32 months, he was discharged as a sergeant.
On November 27, 1943 at Tampa, he married Mildred Woodbery, born September 9, 1923, daughter of Daniel Hoyt Woodbery and Elizabeth (Johnstone) Woodbery. Mr. Woodbery, (1892-1973), served as president of Hav-a-Tampa-Cigar Corporation. Mildred had attended Florida State College for Women and was a member of Kappa Delta Sorority.
Agriculture was Doyle's main occupational interest with extensive citrus and cattle holdings. "My father and father-in-law gave my wife and I $20,000 combined to help us get started. I used money to buy some land at slightly below market value, about $6 or $7 an acre, which I then used as collateral to buy some more cattle. Then I just repeated the process over and over," Carlton later stated.
An article in The Florida Advocate of January 11, 1946 depicted a major early purchase:
"The largest real estate deal that has been consummated in Hardee County in a number of years was closed last week when the Wright Estate, Inc., of Dallas, Tex., and Wauchula, sold all their holdings in Hardee County to Doyle E. Carlton, Jr., and wife, Mildred Carlton.
"The sale is believed to be in the neighborhood of 18,000 acres, including improved properties, rural homes, groves and pasture lands. The real estate, at one time, was the property of the Wauchula Development Company, one of the most successful real estate operators in Florida which located hundreds of families in this section.
"Mr. Carlton, who recently received his discharge from the Army Air Corps, is planning to move to Wauchula from Tampa and devote his whole time to his cattle and citrus interests. He is building a lovely home a few miles west of the city, which will be ready for occupancy within a month, or so.
“Mr. Carlton, previous to acquiring the holdings of the Wright Estate, was already a large land and cattle owner in the county and the acquisition will place him at the top of the land owners in the state."
A feature in The Herald-Advocate of July 23, 1987 noted that: "Doyle Carlton, Jr. has masterfully used the citrus and cattle industries to build a growing 60,000-acre empire. It spans five Central Florida counties including 30,000 acres in Hardee, 15,000 in Okeechobee, and the rest spread throughout Highlands, DeSoto, and Martin counties.
Doyle exercised an influential role in local and state politics. Elected for four-year terms in 1952 and 1956, he served as State Senator from the 27th District, comprising the counties of Hardee, DeSoto, Highlands and Glades, and established himself as a senator whose legislative policies and actions were designed for the entire state of Florida.
He was Chairman of the Citrus Committee in 1953 and 1959. In the 1957 legislative session, he was named Vice-Chairman of the Legislative Council, an interim legislative study group. Chairman of the Livestock Committee, he in 1957 passed a committee bill for the eradication of screw worms in Florida.
He fought "Last Resort" and other school closing legislation and led the fight for pupil assignment law so as to assure that Florida schools would be kept open.
He was returned to the Senate in 1964 and served in the 1965 session and the extra session, 1966. During his final term, he was responsible for the law creating Hardee Memorial Hospital, of which Mildred was a founding board member and served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and was active in the Hospital Auxiliary.
Senator Carlton was honored on numerous occasions for his legislative service. During the 1953 session, he received the Allen Morris Award as Outstanding Freshman Senator. In 1955 he was selected by the press as one of the Senate's two most outstanding members, and the Jaycees named him as one of Florida's five Outstanding Young Men. In 1959 he was named as one of two most outstanding legislators in both houses of the legislature. He was also voted in 1959 as "Most Valuable Senator" in the St. Petersburg Times poll of the Florida press and further as one of two Most Outstanding Members of the entire Legislature in the Allen Morris Poll.
Perhaps his finest political hour was his unsuccessful bid for governor in 1960 when he was runner-up in the Democratic primary to Farris Bryant. Refusing to resort to political expediency, Doyle advocated keeping the public schools open. Bryant received 512,757 votes to Senator Carlton's 416,052.
Doyle was involved in various other businesses, notably as the chairman of Hav-a-Tampa Corp. and president and chairman of the board of Eli Securities. From 1979 until July 12, 1990, he was chairman of the Florida State Fair Authority and continued afterwards as an authority member.
He and his wife, Mildred, created Cracker Country, which preserves the pioneer history of Florida. One of the buildings on the fair grounds, located on U.S. 301, Hillsborough County, is the 1885 home of Albert Carlton, Doyle's grandfather.
He was active in church and civic affairs. He was a member of the First Baptist Church of Wauchula, of which he was a life deacon, and taught Sunday school for many years. He was Vice President of the Florida Baptist Convention in 1960.
He served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Stetson University, serving three five-year terms from 1969-84 and returned to the Board for another five-year term in 1986. He served as a trustee for the University of Tampa.
Steve Otto, in his column of March 11, 1985 in The Tampa Tribune, wrote of Doyle:
"A colleague down here calls him Lincolnesque, and the lanky white-haired rancher does speak in a droll, careful, controlled manner that is loaded with homilies and anecdotes and drips with sincerity. He is a religious man who practices and preaches although he is careful not to be too preachy."
Other honors followed: In 1985 Stetson University College of Law in St. Petersburg awarded Doyle an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. In 1990 the Agribusiness Institute of Florida honored Doyle for his lifelong commitment and contribution to agriculture with its "White Hat" award. On February 12, 1991 he was inducted into the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame. In 1991 the Florida Democratic party awarded Carlton the first LeRoy Collins Award for Political Courage for standing with Collins in 1957 against an effort by the Legislature to close public schools rather than comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's order to integrate them.
Mildred was also active in church and civic activities. She was a member of the First Baptist Church of Wauchula where she taught the Hannah Sunday School Class for many years, served as W.M.U. President and Associational W.M.U. President. A member of the Florida Baptist State Board of Missions, she served on its Executive Committee. In 1972-73, she, the second woman to so serve, was Vice President of the Florida Baptist State Convention.From 1971-77 she served on the Florida Baptist Family Ministries' Board of Trustees, and its multi-purpose activities facility at the Florida Baptist Children's Home in Lakeland, Florida on July 27, 1991 was dedicated as the "Mildred W. Carlton Learning Center" in her honor. The Mildred W. Carlton House of Joshua House was named for her.
Mildred Woodbery Carlton died January 24, 2003, Wauchula. Doyle Elam Carlton, Jr. died May 10, 2003, Wauchula. They are buried in Wauchula Cemetery.
Issue of Doyle Elam Carlton, Jr., and Mildred Woodbery Carlton:
1. Susan Carlton, born Oct. 24, 1944; married on Sept. 7, 1963 Donald Emerson "Duck" Smith, son of Ralph and Ruth (Marsh) Smith.
2. Doyle Elam Carlton, III, born Sept. 22, 1947; married on Oct. 24, 1970 Debra Marie Hansel, daughter of James H. and Leola (Parker) Hansel of Arcadia, Florida.
3. Jane Carlton, born Oct. 29, 1950; married (1) April 3, 1971 Elliot Roberts, divorced; (2) May 5, 1978 David "Lefty" Durando.
See also “Doyle Elam Carlton, Jr. Florida Cattleman, Political Leader and Philanthropist: A Conversation” in the January 2008 Polk County Historical Quarterly.
This profile is adapted from the author's Lineage of John Carlton, pages 68-71. See also D. B. McKay, Pioneer Florida; "Narrative Biographical Outline Doyle E. Carlton, Jr.," January 9, 1960; Alex Ortiz, "Was Paid With Cattle By His Father," The Herald-Advocate, July 23, 1987; TBO.com of January 26, 2003; The Tampa Tribune, Metro, page 7, May 12, 2003; The Herald-Advocate, May 14, 2003, pages 1A, 2A, 4A.
This article was published in The Herald-Advocate (Wauchula, Fla.) of June 26, 2003.
November 27, 2001, January 2, 2002, July 2, 2003, Sept. 7, 2008