Welcome to Florida

Florida Timeline


Historical Periods
Pre-history until 1497Spanish Rule 1513–1763British Rule 1763–1783
Spanish Rule 1783–1821 U.S. Territorial Period 1822–1845 Statehood 1845–present


Major Events
American Revolutionary War 1775–1783 War of 1812 1811-1814 First Seminole War 1817-1818
Capitol moved to Tallahassee 1824 Second Seminole War 1835-1842 Constitutional Convention 1838
Third Seminole War 1855-1858 Ordinance of Secession 1861 Civil War 1861–1865
3rd Constitution 1865 Reconstruction 1865–1868 4th Constitution 1868
5th Constitution 1885 Great Migration 1910–1930 Land Boom 1920–1928
6th Constitution 1968 Presidential Election 2000 More Information

1497-1514 Europeans see Florida for the first time. A Spanish map of 1502 depicts a peninsula like Florida. Peter Martyr writes in 1514 of a land near the Bahamas with water of eternal youth.
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1513 Juan Ponce de Leon, who first had come to the New World on the second voyage of Columbus, sights land on March 27. Between April 2 and 8, in the vicinity of present day St. Augustine. He names the land "Pascua Florida" because of its discovery "during the time of the Feast of Easter."

1516-1561 Florida is explored by Spaniards, including Ponce de Leon, Panfilo de Navarez, and Don de Luna Y Arellano. Hernando de Soto lands in Florida on May 30, 1539, with nearly 600 men near Tampa Bay. De Luna establishes a colony on the shores of Pensacola Bay in 1559. This settlement is abandoned two years later and antedates by six years the founding of St. Augustine, which becomes known as the first attempt at permanent colonization in Florida. Fray Luis Cancer de Barbastro, a Dominican priest is killed by Indians near Tampa Bay in 1548. He is the first known churchman to die for his faith in this country.

1564 Rene oulaine de Laudonniere of France builds a fort which he names Caroline for Charles IX, on the St. John's River, which is known to the French as the River of May.

1565 Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain enters a harbor which he calls San Augustin on August 28; he captures Fort Caroline which becomes San Mateo, a Spanish outpost. He also massacres the shipwrecked French forces of Admiral Jean Ribault on Anastasia Island. San Augustin will become known as St. Augustine, and will be settled continuously after Menendez leaves part of his troops there before his foray on Fort Caroline.

1566 Intensive and continuing efforts are begun by Jesuit priest to convert the Indians of the area to the Christian faith. The mission system in Florida begins soon after the establishment of St. Augustine - nearly 200 years before the first mission in upper California is built.

1567- 1568 Dominique de urgues of France launches an expedition to avenge the dead of Fort Caroline and Anastasia Island. He captures San Mateo, hangs the Spanish, and returns to France.

1575 The Franciscan friars begin their missionary work in Florida.

1586 Sir Francis Drake, a British seafarer conquers and burns St. Augustine.

1600 Throughout the 17th century, although impeded by sporadic Indian outbreaks, Spanish colonization spreads in Florida. By the 1680s, San Marcos de Apalache (St. Marks of today) is a fort and a settlement of consequence. Pensacola is permanently resettled in 1698.

1702-1704 The British raid Spanish settlements including a 52-day siege of St. Augustine. The town is captured but the fort is not. Governor James Moore of Carolina invades middle Florida forcing the Spaniards and Christianized Indians to abandon the Apalachee missions. Within a few years, the mission era of Florida comes to an end.

1719 The French capture Pensacola; however, as a result of an alliance with Spain, in order to stave off English conquests, it is soon returned to the Spanish. The French also occupy the Gulf Coast west of Pensacola.

1740 The British General James Oglethorpe invades Florida from Georgia, seizing outlying forts. He lays siege to St. Augustine for 27 days until a lack of fresh water and provisions, plus the July sun and hordes of insects, cause him to turn away. He does free the 1500 soldiers and townspeople crowded in the Castillo de San Marcos.

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1763 Spain ransoms Havana from the British with Florida. The British find St. Augustine to be a city with about 342 dwellings, Pensacola to have grown slightly beyond the original settlement, and the fort and town of San Marcos de Apalache at the head of the Gulf. The remainder is wilderness and efforts are made by the British to attract investors and settlers.

1781 The Spanish capture Pensacola from the British.

1783 The British return Florida to Spain. Numerous people, many of whom have fled the American Colonies during the Revolution, leave Florida for the Bahamas and the West Indies. Florida's first newspaper, The East Florida Gazette, is published at St. Augustine by Williams Charles Wells. He rushes out an "extra" to proclaim the British defeat in the Revolutionary War.

1785-1821 Numerous Spanish-American border disputes occur. Encouraged by the Americans, a republic is proclaimed in northeastern Florida in 1812 by "patriots" who run up their own flag over Fernandina.

1813 Andrew Jackson captures Pensacola which has been used as a base of Gulf operations by the British against the Americans.

1816 A red-hot cannon ball explodes the magazine of an abandoned British fort on the Apalachicola River, occupied by free and runaway Negro slaves and kills nearly 300. This is a result of Americans seeking to stop Spanish forays upon boats supplying American troops and settlers in Spanish territory.

1817-1819 Gregor MacGregor, a Scotch soldier of fortune, captures Fernandina, menaces St. Augustine, and leaves his lieutenants to resist an attack by the Spanish and volunteer American forces on Amelia Island. MacGregor is replaced by Luis Aury, who declares himself a Mexican, annexes Amelia Island to Mexico, and flies the Mexican flag. American forces evict him in December 1817, without bloodshed, and hold the area until yellow fever causes their withdrawal in 1819.

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1818 During the first Seminole War, Andrew Jackson campaigns against the Indians and outlaws Negroes from Pensacola to the Suwannee. He also executes two British citizens whom he accuses of inciting the Indians of the region against the United States.

1819 American Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and Spanish Minister Luis de Onis reach an agreement finally ratified by both nations in 1821, by which Spain gives the United States title to East and West Florida. The United States relinquishes its claims to Texas, and Spain assigns its rights in the Pacific Northwest to the U.S., leaving ownership of the Oregon Territory to be settled among the United States, Russia, and Great Britain. The United States pays about $4.1 million to Americans in Florida holding claims against Spain.

1821 Andrew Jackson receives the Floridas from Spanish authorities at Pensacola on July 17. He leaves Florida in October and resigns as U.S. Commissioner and Governor of the territories of East and West Florida in November from his home in Tennessee.

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1822 The unified government of Florida is established on March 30,1822, when President James Monroe the Congressional Act providing for a Governor and a Legislative Council of 13 citizens. William P. Duval from Kentucky, a Virginian by birth, becomes the first Territorial Governor.

1824 On March 4, Governor Duval proclaims the site of present day Tallahassee to be the seat of the new territory. The Legislative Council meets there in November in a log house erected in the vicinity of today's capitol.

1825 The Marquis de Lafayette is granted $200,000 and a township of land anywhere in the unsold public domain in recognition by Congress of his Revolutionary War services. He accepts a township adjacent to Tallahassee in the Territory of Florida. Lafayette never comes to his land, but initiates its settlement in 1831 by a short-lived colony of about 60 Norman peasants who attempt to cultivate vineyards, olive groves, and mulberry trees for feeding silk worms.

1834-1837 Florida's first railroads begin operation. The Tallahassee-St. Marks is the first to be incorporated on April 10,1834; however, the St. Joseph-Lake Wimico line is the first to be in service on April 14, 1836.

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1835-1837 With the beginning of the Second Seminole War, Major Francis L. Dade and two companies of U.S. Army troops are ambushed and massacred. In 1837 the Indian leader Osceola is imprisoned after entering an American camp under a flag of truce.

1837-1840 General Zachary Taylor, future president of the United States, commands forces against the Seminoles. His battle on the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee on Christmas Day in 1837 is considered the last organized encounter with the Seminoles.

1838 A convention held at St. Joseph drafts a Constitution in anticipation of early statehood.

1842 The Second Seminole War ends with 3,824 Indians and Negroes relocated to Arkansas. The cost of the war to the Federal government, beyond the expense of the regular army, is placed at $20 million. While 1,500 soldiers are wounded or contract disease, no estimate of civilian casualties is made.

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1845 On March 3, the last day of his administration, President John Tyler signs into law the act granting statehood to Florida's 57,921 inhabitants. William D. Moseley, a Jefferson County planter and a North Carolinian who had lived in Florida only six years, becomes the state's first governor. David Levy Yulee, a native of St. Thomas in the West Indies and of a Portuguese Jewish family, is elected the first representative to Congress. However, before going to Washington, he is selected by the General Assembly as Florida's first U.S. Senator, which with the exception of a four-week interruption, he continues to be until secession.

1851 Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola patents the process of making ice artificially, a process he had developed in 1845 to cool the rooms of his feverish patients. He dies in 1855 with little recognition; however, today his statue stands in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

1855 The General Assembly passes the first Internal Improvement Act which uses swamp and other land ceded by the Federal movement to the state to furnish incentives for a statewide railroad and canal transportation system.

1855-1858 The Third Seminole War takes place.

1860 The Legislature, meeting after Abraham Lincoln's election as president, passes an Act for a Constitutional Convention to meet in Tallahassee and appropriates $100,000 for outfitting state troops. The Florida Railroad, the first cross state line, links Fernandina on the East Coast with Cedar Key on the West.

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1861 Florida withdraws from the Union on January 10. State troops occupy Chattahoochee Arsenal, Fort Clinch on Amelia Island, Fort Marion at St. Augustine, and Fort Barrancas at Pensacola. Federal authorities hold Fort Taylor at Key West, Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, and Fort Pickens at Pensacola.

1861-1865 Florida furnishes salt beef, and bacon to the armies of the Confederacy. The voting population of Florida is 14,374 in 1860 which gives greater significance to the fact that more than 16,000 Floridians serve in the Civil War, 15,000 in the Confederate army and 1,290 in the Union forces. Of those in the Confederate armies, 6,700 serve for the entire war or until disabled or killed. Florida troops are represented in all principal battles and more than 1,000 are killed in action. At least 5,000 Florida soldiers are dead by the spring of 1865.

1864 The Confederates defeat the Union army at Olustee and save the interior supply lines from Florida. This confines the Union troops, to the coast.

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1865 Home Guards and Cadets from the West Florida Seminary save Tallahassee from capture by turning back invading Federal troops at the Battle of Natural Bridge. The war ends with Tallahassee as the only Confederate state capital east of Mississippi to escape being captured. Federal troops do occupy Tallahassee on May 10 and the American flag once more flies over the Capitol on May 20. A Constitutional Convention convenes on October 25. It annuls the Ordinance of Secession and decrees the end of slavery; however, the right to vote is restricted to "free" white male persons of 21 years old or older.

1868 A faction-torn Convention submits a new Constitution which the voters approve in May. It grants equal suffrage to all races. Civil government is resumed with an end to military rule on July 4.

1876 Florida's electoral votes, cast amid charges of fraud, give the winning margin for the U.S. Presidency to Rutherford B. Hayes. Democrats regain control of state offices and put an end to the carpetbag rule as Federal troops are withdrawn in 1877.

1881 Hamilton Disston, Philadelphia saw industrialist, buys four million acres of the Everglades at 25 cents an acre to free the Internal Improvement Fund of debt and open the way for development of much of peninsular Florida.

1884 The first train of the new Plant System, created from short-lines in south Florida by Henry B. Plant, rumbles into Tampa to produce the agricultural and industrial awakening of the West Coast.

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1885 A Constitutional Convention of 56 days broaden people's share in their government. Cabinet posts are made electives, as are those of justice of the Supreme Court and all county offices except county commissioner. A State Board of Education is created and the establishment of normal schools is authorized.

1886 Requiring a railroad adequate to serve a great hotel he has built at St. Augustine, Henry M. Flagler buys the first transportation link in the chain of railroad and hotel properties he builds down the East Coast to Key West.

1888 The first commercial shipment of phosphate is made from the Peace River Valley, where the mineral had been discovered in 1881.

1889 A yellow fever epidemic results in the creation of the State Board of Health.

1890 The National Convention of Farmers' Alliance, a predecessor of the Populist Party, is held in Ocala. Their radical demands include the abolition of national banks, unlimited coinage of silver, a graduated income tax and the direct election of senators.

1894-1899 Repeated frosts kill much citrus and send the industry southward.

1898 The Spanish-American War creates embarkation camps at Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville with thousands of soldiers and others who visit the state returning afterwards either as tourists or residents.

1901 A primary election law is enacted to displace the convention system of nominating candidates for public office.

1905 The Buckman Act consolidates state institutions of higher learning into three: The University of Florida at Gainesville, Florida State College for Women at Tallahassee and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes at Tallahassee. The Legislature also creates the Everglades Drainage District of 7500 square miles to reclaim water-burdened land for agriculture and cattle raising. An automobile registration law is enacted with 296 registering the first two years.

1911 The first night flight in aviation history is made by Lincoln Beachey over Tampa.

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1913 Governor Trammell sponsors the first corrupt practices law to reduce the legal cost of seeking public office. The law allows the expenditure of $4000 by candidates for the U.S. Senate and for governor $3500 for cabinet positions.

1914 The world's first scheduled airline service with pilot Antony Jannus begins service from St. Petersburg to Tampa on January 1.

1915 The first legal steps are taken toward establishment of a state constructed and maintained system of highways a governmental function left previously to local agencies but requiring emergency measures because of rapid development of automobile and tourist traffic.

1917-1918 Florida is the scene of training for World War I fighting men, particularly aviators as weather permits year-round activity.

1922 WDAE Tampa is licensed by the U.S. Department of Commerce on May 15, 1922 to the Tampa Publishing Company and goes on the air as Florida's first licensed broadcast radio station.

1924-1925 With a large influx of visitors many of whom remain as residents a huge land boom occurs. Inestimable sums are spent by public and private agencies for internal improvements as scores of new cities are established.

1925 The Miami Herald has the largest advertising lineage of any newspaper in the United States 42.5 million lines in contrast to 33.3 million by its nearest competitor.

1926 A hurricane devastates the Miami area taking nearly 200 lives. A constitutional amendment broadens the power of the Legislature to appropriate money for schools.

1927 The State Board of Public Welfare is created. Large-scale growing and milling of sugar begins in the Everglades at Clewiston.

1928 Water driven from Lake Okeechobee by a hurricane causes the drowning of some 1500 persons.

1929 First commercial airline flights between Key West and Havana become forerunners of Latin-American operations of Pan American World Airways from Miami.

1933 In an attempt to assassinate President-elect Roosevelt in Bayfront Park in Miami, Guiseppi Zangara fatally wounds Mayor Anton Cermak of Chicago. Zangara is put to death in Raiford Prison's electric chair. The sale of beer is legalized. The first New Deal agency in Florida the Civilian Conservation Corps begins operation.

1934 A constitutional amendment exempts homesteads from taxation up to $5000 valuation except for payment of bonds previously issued.

1935 A storm sweeps a mid-section of the Florida Keys and kills nearly 400 persons including some 200 veterans of World War I.

1937 The Poll Tax is abolished as a prerequisite to voting.

1939 The Highway Patrol to be financed from the sale of driver licenses is established.

1940 The ad valorem tax for state purposes is abolished.

1941-1945 Florida expands with World War II industry as it becomes a training ground for tens of thousands of men and women of the armed forces at camps like Camp Blanding and Camp Gordon Johnston and as it forges vessels and tools for the conflict. Tourist hotels and restaurants at Miami Beach, Daytona Beach, St. Petersburg and other resort centers afford quick means for accommodating numerous trainees.

1942 A constitutional amendment pledges proceeds of two cents of gasoline tax for 50 years to retirement of county road and bridge bonds.

1943 A cigarette tax is levied to replace war-lost revenue from horse and dog racing.

1945 A cigarette tax is reenacted and increased from three cents to four and taxes on beer and other alcoholic beverages are raised to finance a multimillion dollar improvement program at state institutions and to provide more money for schools. A state advertising program of $500,000 a year is instituted.

1947 The Legislature enacts the Minimum Foundation Program to assure educational opportunity for children in elementary schools of all counties and to encourage teachers to improve their qualifications by offering better pay for better training. The Florida State College for Women changes into co-educational Florida State University and the University of Florida is opened to female students.

1949 The Legislature bans livestock from highways, enacts an omnibus citrus law designed to raise marketing standards for fresh and canned fruit and overhauls election laws. In a special revenue-raising session it also enacts a three percent retail sales tax.

1950 Frozen concentrate of citrus juices becomes a major industry. Florida ranks 12th in the nation in production of beef cattle. The Federal Census counts 2,771,305 Floridians.

1953 The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes becomes Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

1954 The first Republican since 1885 is elected to Congress. Six Republicans are elected to the State House of Representatives. The Sunshine Skyway stretching 15.2 miles across Lower Tampa Bay is opened to toll traffic.

1955 The Legislature authorizes a state-long turnpike. Lawmakers are deadlocked for months in special session over reapportionment of the State Senate.

1956 LeRoy Collins achieves two political "firsts." Elected in 1954 to complete the term of the late Governor McCarty Collins is the first chief executive reelected to a successive term. Collins also is the first candidate for governor to win a first- primary victory, defeating five opponents for the Democratic nomination.

1957 The Legislature authorizes statewide educational television. Funds are appropriated for the University of South Florida and for the expansion of a network of community colleges.

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1958 A second major federal agency the National Aeronautics and Space Administration begins operations at Cape Canaveral. From here the United States launches its first earth satellite Explorer 1.

1960 The Federal census ranks Florida 10th in the nation with a population of 4,951,560.

1961 There is a successful launch of astronauts from Cape Canaveral: Navy Commander Alan Shepard on May 5 and Air Force Capt. Virgil Grissom on July 21 for suborbital flights down the Atlantic Missile Range. The Cape is selected as the launching site for a manned lunar landing program. The Census Bureau ranks Florida ninth in population.

1962 The Space Age spreads out from Cape Canaveral's launching base, and influences the state in many ways higher education and industry being among the most important.

1963 President Lyndon Johnson changes the name Cape Canaveral to Cape Kennedy and renames the installation the John F. Kennedy Space Center in honor of the late president. The Constitution is amended to authorize sale of state bonds to construct buildings at universities, colleges and vocational schools. Voters also approve issuance of bonds to purchase land for conservation purposes. Election of governor and Cabinet is shifted to off-year from Presidential election.

1964 First classes are held at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, and the University of West Florida is the name given to the institution established at Pensacola. Hurricane Cleo causes property damage estimated at $115,320,000 but no life is lost.

1965 The Board of Regents composed of nine members with ultimate nine-year terms, takes over policy-making for the state’s institutions of higher learning from the Board of Control. The first U.S. launch of two-man spacecraft with Majors Edward H. White and James McDivitt orbits the earth 62 times.

1966 The $700 million Walt Disney World, to be built in the Orlando area is announced. Claude R. Kirk, Jr. is elected the 36th governor of Florida. Kirk is the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. GOP nominees also win three of Florida's 12 seats in the U.S. House of representatives. Voters approve early-start Legislature with Senate and House organizing on the Tuesday following the November general elections. Previously the Legislature organized in April.

1967 Repeated efforts by the Legislature to devise an acceptable plan of apportionment ends when a three-judge Federal court draws the boundaries of Senate and House districts and orders new elections. Republicans capture 20 of 48 Senate seats and 39 of 119 House seats.

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1968 The Legislature submits and voters ratify three amendments which combine to give the state an almost new Constitution. The Republicans hold their national convention at Miami Beach the first national gathering of a major political party ever convened in Florida. The first Republican ever elected by popular ballot is sent to the U.S. Senate. There is a statewide teacher walkout.

1969 With the office re-established by the revised Constitution the first lieutenant governor since 1889 is appointed. The Legislature reorganizes state government so that over 170 separate agencies become 22 operating departments. On July 16 Apollo 11 lifts off from Cape Kennedy to carry the first men to the moon.

1970 Democrat Reubin Askew is elected Florida's 37th governor, defeating incumbent Republican Governor Claude Kirk in his bid for a second term. His running-mate Secretary of State Tom Adams, becomes the state's second lieutenant governor under the revised Constitution of 1968.

1971 Apollo 14 plagued with many troubling incidents, touches down on the Moon 108 hours after blast-off from the Kennedy Space Center. Capt. Alan B. Shepard is in command. President Richard M. Nixon orders a halt to the Cross Florida Barge Canal after $50 million has been spent on the 107-mile structure. Amtrak begins operation of service into Orlando. Apollo 15 astronauts explore the Moon for three days in a record-breaking flight of 12 days originating from Kennedy Space Center. Walt Disney World opens October 1st. Estimated cost of the facility is between $500 and $600 million.

1972 Apollo 16, despite a guidance malfunction, lands on the Moon for three days of exploration and returns to Earth without further incident. Tropical storm Agnes roars out of the south Atlantic to cause heavy damage along the eastern seaboard northward from Miami. Paula Hawkins becomes the first woman elected to the Florida Public Service Commission.

1973 Despite fuel shortages in the latter part of the year, Florida sets an all-time record for influx of visitors, when 25.5 million people visit the Sunshine State. After seven and one-half years and nearly 260,000 refugees, the "freedom flights" from Cuba come to an end on April 7th. The airlifts, bringing refugees into Miami at the rate of 48,000 a year, help transform the ethnic makeup of Dade County by adding at least 100,000 Cubans to the 150,000 already there.

1974 Reubin Askew becomes the first Governor to be elected to successive four- year terms. The Legislature creates an ethics commission to oversee public officers and employees. It also enacts legislation for collective bargaining by public employees.

1975 The state jobless rate hits a 25-year high in January at 8.3 percent and eventually unemployment reaches 9.3 percent. Governor Askew appoints Joseph W. Hatchett to the Supreme Court, the first black justice in the court's history.

1976 Former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter tops Alabama Governor George C. Wallace and 10 other Democrats in Florida's Presidential Preference Primary, giving Carter's campaign impetus which leads to his party's nomination for president. In the same primary, Florida Republicans prefer President Gerald R. Ford over former California Governor Ronald Reagan. Carter garners 51.93 percent of Florida's general election vote.

1977 Severe cold devastates citrus and vegetable plants. This causes President Carter to proclaim 34 counties disaster areas. The U.S. Corps of Engineers recommends against resumption of construction on Cross Florida Barge Canal.

1978 Jesse J McCrary, Jr. is appointed Secretary of State by Governor Reubin Askew on July 19, the second black to serve as Secretary of State and as a member of the Cabinet. Miami businessman and former State Senator Bob Graham wins election as Florida's 38th governor.

1979 Miami Beach reports a record resort tax collection for its fiscal year. Taxes received from hotel rooms, food and beverages reach a record high of $3,727,380. It is the twentieth anniversary of Busch Gardens in Tampa. The grand opening of the Museum of Botany and Fine Arts at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota marks the first time science and art are combined in such a setting.

1980 The Miami Seaquarium celebrates its 25th Anniversary. Tampa opens its own $6.2 million water theme park, Adventure Island. A bill raising the drinking age from 18 to 19 is passed, however, all military personnel are excluded.

1981 The first manned space shuttle launches are made from Kennedy Space Center, with launch schedules to increase in the year ahead. Unmanned rockets with payloads are scheduled approximately every month by NASA from the KSC launch pads.

1982 The Florida Legislature completes a difficult reapportionment after an extended session. Gov. Bob Graham is reelected for a second term. The $800 million EPCOT Center opens at Walt Disney World.

1983 The space shuttle Challenger launches its first 5-member crew and the first American woman, Sally Ride, into space from Kennedy Space Center. Thirty-eight overseas highway bridges from Key Largo to Key West are completed under the Florida Keys Bridge Replacement Program.

1984 The Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay is under reconstruction. It is expected to completed in 1986 at a cost of $215 million. Donald Duck's "50th Anniversary Celebration" is held in June at Walt Disney World. Busch Gardens celebrates its 25th anniversary. The Miami Metro Rail, the only inner city, elevated rail system in Florida, begins service in May.

1985 Florida's state park system marks its 50th anniversary. Begun during the Depression with nine parks, the system now includes 92 park and recreation areas. DeSoto Trail was officially dedicated during May in Inverness. The Kennedy Space Center's Visitor Center is renamed Spaceport USA. Two well-preserved, intact human brains are discovered by Glenn Doran, archaeologist at Florida State University when he uncovered the 7,000-plus-year-old skulls in the swamps near Titusville.

1986 The Kennedy Space Center witnesses America's worst space tragedy when the space shuttle "Challenger" explodes after takeoff. All seven astronauts aboard are killed. Treasure hunter Mel Fisher continues to salvage vast amounts of gold and silver from his discovery of the Spanish galleon "Nuestra Senora de Atocha" which sank in 1622 during a hurricane off Key West. The television series "Miami Vice” continues to capture the nation's imagination, revitalizing interest and tourism for South Florida. Walt Disney World breaks ground for a major movie and television production studio to be constructed in Orlando.

1987 Bob Martinez is the first person of Spanish ancestry to become governor of Florida. Calvin Jones, state archaeologist finds what is believed to be the site of Hernando de Soto's 1539-40 camp in Tallahassee. U.S. Census Bureau estimates indicate that Florida has surpassed Pennsylvania to become the fourth most populous state in the nation. The ranking will not become official until the Bureau publishes its report in early 1988. It is predicted that Florida will be the third most populous state by the year 2000.

1988 Florida once again becomes the center for America's space program. Regular space shuttle flights resume in October for the first time since the "Challenger” disaster in 1986. Two Republicans capture posts in the Florida Cabinet in the general election. Jim Smith is elected Secretary of State and Tom Gallagher takes over as State Insurance Commissioner. This is the first time since the Reconstruction Era of the 1870s that Republicans have won any statewide office other than governor. Floridians now have a state-operated lottery which gives away some of the largest prizes in the nation. An international team, using experimental technology, completes the world's deepest cave-diving expedition at Wakulla Springs in north Florida.

1989 U.S. Representative Claude Pepper, dies in May. Genetic testing reveals that a Wauchula hospital a decade ago accidentally switched babies belonging to Sarasota and Pennsylvania couples, setting off a legal battle. Devastating cold front hits state in December, closing airports and interstates and causing statewide power outages.

1990 Panama's governor Manuel Noriega is brought to Miami in January for trial on drug charges. Joe Robbie, Miami Dolphins founder, dies in January. Flooding Panhandle rivers in March force evacuation of 2,000 homes. Owners/players contract dispute delays spring training baseball season. St. Petersburg's Suncoast Dome opens in March. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August results in massive state National Guard and Army Reserve unit callup. Lotto in September awards record $106 million jackpot. State gasoline prices in September soar to seven-year high. Democrat Lawton Chiles soundly trounces Republican incumbent Bob Martinez in governor’s race. Outgoing Governor Martinez in November was named the nation's drug czar. In December, Tampa is awarded franchise team in the National Hockey League.

1991 Lawton Chiles in January is sworn in as state's 41st governor. Miami-based Eastern Airlines in January announces closing due to financial losses. Former Governor LeRoy Collins, 82, dies in March. U.S. Senator Bruce Smathers in April donates record $20 million to University of Florida library system. In May Legislature approves $29.3 billion state budget, including $164 million in new taxes. At Governor Chiles' request Legislature in May creates new Department of Elderly Affairs. Also in May, Queen Elizabeth 11 visits Miami and Tampa, and confers honorary knighthood on Tampa resident Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf. Five Navy bombers found by treasure salvers are determined not to be the "Lost Squadron" of Bermuda Triangle fame that went down in 1945 off the coast of Florida. Miami and Denver are awarded new national major league baseball franchises. The 1990 Federal Census puts Florida's population at 12,937,926, a 34 percent increase from 1980.

1992 Homestead and adjacent South Florida are devastated on August 24 by the costliest natural disaster in American history, Hurricane Andrew, demanding billions in aid. There were 58 deaths directly or indirectly related to Andrew. The hurricane destroyed 25,000 homes and damaged 10,000 others. Twenty-two thousand Federal troops were deployed. Shelters housed 80,000 persons. First elections since Florida gained four additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives saw Cubans and Afro-Americans seated. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Cuban-born, joined lleana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban, elected to the Florida House in 1982, the Florida Senate in 1986, and the U.S. House in 1989. Among Afro-Americans elected to Congress was Carrie Meek of Miami. Sixty-six in 1993, her political career saw her elected first to the Florida House of Representatives, the Florida Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives.

1993 Janet Reno, State Attorney for Dade County (Miami) for 15 years named Attorney General of the U.S. by President Bill Clinton, the first woman to so serve in U.S. history. Although a pro-choice Democrat she managed to win reelection four times in a conservative stronghold, the last time without opposition.

1998 Former U.S. Senator and governor Lawton Chiles died in office; replaced by Buddy McKay. Son of U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush, elected governor. Voters passed constitutional amendment to shrink the Executive Cabinet to four elected officers: Governor, Agricultural Commissioner, Attorney General, and Chief Financial Officer (a new position that combined the State Treasurer and State Comptroller).

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2000 Presidential election crisis; focus settles upon Florida’s courts and voting ballots.

2002 Jeb Bush becomes first Republican governor to be re-elected. Department of Financial Services created out of the Department of Insurance, Treasury and State Fire Marshal and the Department of Banking and Finance.

2007 Charlie Crist inaugurated as 44th governor.

2011 Scott inaugurated as 45th governor.

From another source:


12,000 B.C. The first people move into Florida. Referred to today as PaleoIndians, they moved into the peninsula in search of new food sources. These sources included mastodons, giant armadillos, horses, and saber-toothed tigers. At that time, the end of the last ice Age, Florida was twice the size it is today.

5,000 B.C. The PaleoIndian culture evolved into the Archaic culture. They established the first permanent settlements, primarily on the coast, and were dependent upon shellfish and plant gathering.

500 A.D. The Woodland culture emerges. It included year-round settlements, reliance on hunting deer and birds, and the first farmers.

1200 Emergence of the powerful Mississippian culture, ruled by religious-political leaders called chiefdoms. Involved intensive agriculture (especially corn), large earthen mounds, and continent-wide trade connections.


1492 Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing in the employ of Spain en route to India, accidentally lands in North America. Results in wide-spread European exploration and colonization of the “New World.”

1500 There were three large Native American cultures in Florida: the Timucua in Northeast and Central Florida, the Apalachee in the Big Bend area, and the Calusa in South Florida.

1513 Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon and his expedition were the first documented Europeans to land on the Florida peninsula. He landed on the East Coast, near present-day St. Augustine. Ponce De Leon named the peninsula "Florida" as the season was "Pascua Florida" (Flowery Easter). He then sailed to South Florida, where he was wounded in a fight with the members of the Calusa.

1521 After serving time as governor of Puerto Rico, Leon returns to Florida in search of gold. Contracted by the Spanish crown to colonize and Christianize the native peoples, Leon was killed in South Florida.

1526 Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon founded the ill-fated colony of San Miguel de Guadape on present-day Georgia’s east coast.

1527-1536 Spanish explorer Panfilo Narvaez led a second expedition into Florida. Numbering over 600, the expedition was a notorious failure. Alienating Florida’s native cultures, the expedition was repeatedly attacked. By 1528, Narvaez was dead, and the expedition was grounded due to hurricanes. Four survivors eventually walked to Mexico City, arriving in 1536. Despite the failure, their fantastical tales of mythical cities of gold inspired future expeditions to North America.

1539-1542 Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, having gained experience invading the Incas in Peru, landed in Florida with an 800-man expedition. After wintering in present-day Tallahassee, the expedition traveled throughout the Southeast (covering eleven present-day states), and crossed the Mississippi River twice. After De Soto was killed in 1542, the expedition, now only 300 strong, left for Cuba.

1540s European diseases decimate Florida’s native peoples. Within a century 90% had died.

1559 Tristan de Luna y Arellano, with 1500 participants, attempted Florida’s first settlement, Puerto de Santa Maria (today’s Pensacola Naval Air Station.) Within a year, the remaining colonists left to return to Cuba.

1562 The French, under Jean Ribault, first explore Florida.

1564 French settlers establish Fort Caroline.

1565 Spain established St. Augustine, the first permanent European settlement in North America, located within Timucua territory. In the process, the Spanish expelled the French.

1560s The Jesuits established Spanish missions in the Southeast.

1581 The first African slaves were brought to St. Augustine.

1586 Sir Francis Drake, British seafarer, sacked and burned St. Augustine.

1596 The Franciscans take over the Spanish missions, eventually establishing over 100 missions in Florida and Georgia.

1633 Missions established in Apalachee territory.

1656 Timucua peoples rebel against Spanish authority; Mission San Luis established in what is today Tallahassee.

1672-1695 Castillo de San Marcos built by Spanish in St. Augustine, using native and slave labor.

1698 Pensacola established by the Spanish.

1702-1704 The English destroy the Spanish missions.

1738 Free black settlement, Fort Mose, established.

1740 English general, James Oglethorpe, invades St. Augustine.

BRITISH PERIOD, 1763 – 1783
1763 The end of the French and Indian (Seven Years War) results in the transfer of Florida from Spain to England. The colony was divided into East and West Florida. British colonist expanded Florida agriculture, especially cotton, rice, and indigo. St. Augustine remains the capital of East Florida, with Pensacola the capital of West Florida. James Grant appointed Governor of British Florida.

1760s By this time, Native peoples from Georgia and Alabama, most members of the Creek peoples, were moving into Florida. Eventually called the Seminoles from the Spanish word cimarron, meaning “outsiders” or “runaways.”

1771 Patrick Tonyn replaced an ill Grant as governor.

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1776 The American Revolution begins. Florida did not join its fellow thirteen English colonies in the revolution and remained loyal to England. Its previously sparse population swelled overnight as Tories escaped into loyalist Florida, mostly settling in St. Augustine.

1783 Florida’s first newspaper, the Tory-run East-Florida Gazette, starts publishing. Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution. In return for its assistance to the colonies, the treaty allowed Spain to reoccupy Florida. Most of the English settlers in Florida left for England and the Bahamas.

1783 The reassumption of Spanish control of Florida.

1814 Patriot’s War, when several Americans attempted to conquer Florida.

1816 Andrew Jackson invades Florida in pursuit of Seminole Indians. Start of the First Seminole War.

1817 From 1817-1818, U.S. settlers, Spanish citizens, British agents and Creek Natives clashed in West Florida. Andrew Jackson, regardless of the international border, burned native villages, hanged two British subjects, and captured St. Marks and Pensacola.

1819-1821 Transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States, finalized by the Adams-Onis treaty.

1821 Florida becomes a US Territory, with Andrew Jackson as its first governor. Hand-colored Spanish land grant maps were among the documents used to establish ownership of land in Florida.
Florida’s first American newspapers begin: Florida Gazette in St. Augustine, and the Floridian in Pensacola.

1822 Florida government established on 20 March by Congressional act. First Act of the state legislature.
William Duval elected Florida’s first non-military governor; serves until 1834.

1823 Tallahassee established as Florida capital; State legislature meets.

1830 First Florida census: population 34,730 (white 18,395, nonwhite 16,335).

1834-1836 John Henry Eaton serves as Florida’s second territorial governor.

1835 Beginning of the Second Seminole War.

1836 Richard Keith Call elected the third territorial governor of Florida, serves again 1841-1844.

1838 Fifty-six commissioners elected from Florida's 20 counties gathered at St. Joseph to draft a constitution in anticipation of statehood.

1842 Second Seminole War ended by U.S. Government decision, without treaty or capitulation.

1845 The Act establishing statehood for Iowa and Florida was approved on March 3, by the second session of the 28th Congress.


1845 The Act establishing statehood for Iowa and Florida was approved on March 3, 1845 by the second session of the 28th Congress.

1847 First state seal adopted.

1851 Legislature passes bill to create two colleges, the West Florida Seminary (later became Florida State University) and the East Florida Seminary (later the University of Florida).

1850s Rising political and cultural tensions stemming from the national slavery debate.

1855-1858 Third Seminole War.


1861 On January 10, the Secession Convention voted 62-7 to adopt an Ordinance of Secession and withdraw Florida from the United States.
On April 12, the Civil War begins.
In October, Confederate forces attack Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island in Pensacola.

1862 Union forces occupy Fernandina, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine.

1862-1863 The Union deploys units of black troops for the first time during operations along the Georgia/Florida coast.

1864 Confederates defeat Union forces at Olustee.
Florida Times-Union begins publishing in Jacksonville.

1865 Home Guards and Cadets from West Florida Seminary (now Florida State University) saved Tallahassee from capture at the Battle of Natural Bridge.
The Civil War ended with Tallahassee the only Confederate state capital east of Mississippi to escape capture during the war. Governor John Milton committed suicide and Florida fell under Federal control.
Slavery ended. Emancipation Day is celebrated on May 12th.

1866 Brown Theological Institute (later Edward Waters College) was founded to educate newly freed slaves.

1868 New federally-mandated state constitution.
Attempt to impeach reconstruction governor Harrison Reed; a second attempt in 1872.
Board of Commissioners of State Institutions created.
Second state seal adopted.

1876 Florida played a decisive role in the controversial presidential election between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford Hayes. Florida was one of three states with disputed elector votes. After much political maneuvering, which led in large part to the end of Federal Reconstruction, Hayes was elected president.

1877 End of Reconstruction.


1877 Florida State Hospital established in Chattahoochee; State Prison moved to Raiford.

1878 Hullam Jones constructs Florida’s first glass-bottom boat, at Silver Springs.
Florida Memorial University was founded in 1879 as the Florida Baptist Institute in Live Oak, Florida.

1884 St. Petersburg Times debuts as a weekly.

1885 New state constitution; replaced the 1868 constitution. Served as framework for government until 1968.
The first Confederate pensions in Florida were authorized and granted to veterans the sum of $5.00 per month.
Rollins College was founded.

1887 Florida A&M University begins as State Normal College for Colored Students.

1889 State Board of Health created, in response to the recent yellow fever outbreak.

1891 Developer Henry Plant opens the Tampa Bay Hotel (after 1933, the University of Tampa).

1898 The Spanish-American War saw embarkation camps at Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville. Thousands of soldiers and other who entered the state during the war returned afterwards as permanent residents.

1900 James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, faculty members at the Florida Normal and Industrial Institute (later Florida Memorial University), wrote the words and music to what has become known as the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”

1901 Everglades drainage begins, undertaken to create more farmland. 1902 Start of construction of Henry Flagler’s railroad to Key West; opens in 1912.

1904 Mary McLeod Bethune opened her school in Daytona Beach.

1905 The Buckman Act consolidated and reorganized the seven state supported institutions of higher learning into three institutions, segregated by gender and race.
The seven (the University of Florida at Lake City, the Florida State College at Tallahassee, the White Normal School at De Funiak Springs, the East Florida Seminary at Gainesville, the South Florida College at Bartow, the Florida Agricultural Institute in Osceola County, and the Negro Normal School at Tallahassee) became the University of Florida for men, the Florida State College for Women, and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes.

1906 Hundreds of workers on the Florida East Coast Railway's Overseas Extension were lost when a hurricane swept the Keys and battered Miami on October 18th.

1910 Miami Herald newspaper begins publishing.

1915 Zena B. Dreier became the first women in Florida (and the South) to vote in a local election, which was cast on 19 June in Fellsmere.

1916 Sydney Catts successfully campaigns for governor on the Prohibition ticket. Out-going governor Park Trammell was elected to the U.S. Senate.

1917 From 1917-1918, Florida was the scene of training for World War I fighting men, particularly aviators, as weather permitted year-round activity.
The World War I service cards provide the name; age; serial number; race; place of birth; and residence; for service men and women who were either from Florida or who entered service in Florida.

1918 Florida votes to ratify the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited the purchase and consumption of alcohol.

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BOOM AND BUST, 1920-1940
1920 Beginning of Florida land boom.

1922 WDAE in Tampa became Florida’s first radio station.

1923 Leasing of state convicts to timber companies and other interests was abolished as a result of the death of a prisoner in a private camp.
Racial violence leads to the destruction of the town of Rosewood, a predominantly African American community.
Nathan Mayo elected Commissioner of Agriculture; becomes Florida’s longest serving public servant (37 years – died in office in 1960).
State Livestock Board created; begins mandatory cattle dipping for ticks.

1924 Silver Springs opens for business.

1925 State Library Board created.

1926 Hurricane strikes Florida. Thrusts Florida into an economic depression.
The University of Miami enrolled its first class.

1927 State Board of Public Welfare created in response to depression.
Florida Forestry Service created to control fires and promote timber growth.

1928 Another hurricane struck South Florida. Effectively ends the land boom.
Tamiami Trail opens in South Florida.

1929 Mediterranean Citrus fruit fly discovered; results in massive loss of citrus crops.
Bok Tower opens in Lake Wales; begins golden age of roadside attractions.

1930 Population 1,468,211 (white 1,035,390, nonwhite 432,821).

1933 Assassination attempt on President-elect Franklin Roosevelt by Joseph Zangara in Miami.
Dave Sholtz inaugurated as governor. He involves Florida with the Federal New Deal program, with CCC, PWA, and CWA projects in the state.
Board of State Conservation created.
Start of construction of the Cross-Florida Barge Canal.

1935 Florida Park Service created.
Hurricane strikes Key West.
Claude Neal lynched in Marianna; creates nation-wide outcry.
WPA and the NYA begins work in the state.
Florida Citrus Commission created.
“Old Folks at Home” named State Song.

1936 Two U.S. Senators, Duncan Fletcher and Park Trammell, pass away. They are replaced through special elections by Claude Pepper and Charles Andrews, respectively.
Cypress Gardens opens in Winter Haven.

1937 On June 1, Amelia Earhart took off from Miami on the first over water leg of a round-the-world flight. She and her navigator disappeared over the Pacific on July 2.
Fred Cone inaugurated as governor.
State Welfare Board created.
The State legislature ended the poll tax.

1938 Zora Neale Hurston began working for the Florida division of the Work Projects Administration (WPA). At the time, Hurston had already published Jonah's Gourd Vine and Mules and Men.
Marineland opens as a tourist attraction and movie studio.

1939 State Highway Patrol began.

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1940 Banana River Naval Air Station opened; later would become Cape Canaveral Space Center.

1941 Spessard Holland inaugurated as governor; later elected U.S. Senator.
On December 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and on December 8 the United States entered the Second World War; Florida mobilizes.
Florida is an important location for the training of American soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

1942 Four German agents land on Ponte Vedra Beach, south of Jacksonville. Fishermen discover the agents, who were then captured by the FBI.

1943 The Wainwright shipyard in Panama City builds over 100 Liberty Ships for the U.S. war effort.

1945 World War II ends; returning GI’s fuel Florida’s modern boom period.

1946 President Harry S. Truman begins visiting Key West for rest and relaxation. The house he stayed in becomes known as the "Little White House" and is used by subsequent presidents as well.

1947 Everglades National Park established.
Weeki Wachee Springs amusement park opened.
Chipola College in Marianna opened.

1948 Florida State College for Women goes co-ed as Florida State University.

1949 WTVJ-TV (NBC), Florida’s first television station, begins broadcasting. WJXT-TV (CBS) in Jacksonville was the second station, also began in this year.

1950 Stephen Foster Memorial opened.

1951 The Inter-American Center Authority (Interama) created.

1953 The first Florida Folk Festival presented in White Springs Governor Dan McCarty died in office; replaced by Senate president Charley Johns.

1954 Leroy Collins elected governor.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Brown v. Board of Education case that school segregation was unconstitutional. Many in the State of Florida resisted the decision, prolonging desegregation until well into the early seventies.
The Tallahassee bus boycott began to desegregate that city’s public transportation. One of the first public protests in what became known as the Civil Rights movement, eventually comprising numerous demonstrations and protests throughout the state to end racial segregation in places such as stores, schools, theaters, and public beaches.

1955 Legislature passes legislation for a state turnpike.
Florida’s first non-commercial television station, WPBT-TV in Miami, begins.

1956 University of South Florida founded.

1956-1964 The Johns Committee – named for Senator Charley Johns; investigated Communists and homosexuality in the state and university system.

1957 Legislature passes an interposition (HCR 174) to reject Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court; rejected by Governor Leroy Collins.
Seminole tribe of Florida formed as a political entity.

1959 Cuban Revolution launches wave of Cuban immigration to Florida.

1961 Civil War Centennial Commission created.
On May 5, the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, was launched into space from Cape Canaveral Space Center (later called Cape Kennedy).

1963 Cape Canaveral renamed Cape Kennedy by President Lyndon Johnson, who also established the Kennedy Space Center at the site, located in Brevard County. The name was changed back in 1973.

1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

1964 St. Augustine race riot.
Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and the University of West Florida in Pensacola began operations.

1965 500th anniversary of St. Augustine celebrated.
Governor Haydon Burns announces Walt Disney is opening a theme park in Orlando.
The nine-member Board of Regents took control of Florida’s colleges and universities from the Board of Control.

1966 Claude Kirk elected Florida’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

1968 Complete revision of the state constitution, which consolidated the numerous boards and commissions into more streamlined Departments and Divisions, such as Departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Regulation, Education, State, Agriculture, Commerce, and Transportation.
Florida is the scene of the nation's first statewide teachers' strike.

1969 On July 16, Apollo 11, with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins lifted off at Cape Kennedy on the journey to the moon. Four days later Armstrong advised the Earth: "The Eagle has landed."
Roxcy Bolton successfully challenged the practice that many restaurants had of keeping a separate "men only" section.
University of North Florida opens.
Florida State Archives created.

1970 Reuben Askew elected governor.
Population 6,789,443 (white 5,719,343, nonwhite 1,070,100).

1971 Walt Disney World opens in Orlando; transforms Florida’s economy and surrounding Central Florida.

1972 Both the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions are held in Miami.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins play a perfect season, winning every game they played that year, including the Super Bowl.

1974 Askew becomes first governor to be successively re-elected.

1976 Florida Folklife Program started.

1978 Bob Graham elected governor; in 1986 he was elected U.S. Senator.
Old Capitol saved from destruction; opens as museum in 1982.

1979 Florida’s first execution since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing them to resume.

1980 Mariel boat lift; increase in Cuban immigration to Florida.

1981 The first space shuttle launches began at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

1982 Florida was one of fifteen states to fail to ratify of the ERA Constitutional Amendment.
Florida News Service begins in Tallahassee.
Walt Disney World opened its second attraction in Orlando, EPCOT.

1985 New state seal created to correct inaccuracies dating back to 1868.
TV show Miami Vice became a cultural phenomenon.

1986 Space shuttle Challenger exploded over Cape Canaveral shortly after take-off. Halted the NASA shuttle program for several years.

1987 State archaeologist Calvin Jones discovered Hernando De Soto’s winter encampment near the Florida capital.

1988 The state lottery began operations, selling its first tickets in January.

1991 Governor Lawton Chiles created the Dept. of Elder Affairs.
Miami awarded Florida’s first Major League Baseball team, the Florida Marlins.

1992 Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida on 24 August, with the town of Homestead suffering the worst damages. At the time, it was the costliest disaster in U.S. history.

1993 Dept. of Environmental Protection created, uniting DNR and DER.
Former State Attorney for Dade County Janet Reno was appointed the first female U.S. Attorney General by President Bill Clinton.

1998 Former U.S. Senator and governor Lawton Chiles died in office; replaced by Buddy McKay.
Son of U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush, elected governor.
Voters passed constitutional amendment to shrink the Executive Cabinet to four elected officers: Governor, Agricultural Commissioner, Attorney General, and Chief Financial Officer (a new position that combined the State Treasurer and State Comptroller).

2000 Presidential election crisis; focus settles upon Florida’s courts and voting ballots.

2002 Jeb Bush becomes first Republican governor to be re-elected.
Department of Financial Services created out of the Department of Insurance, Treasury and State Fire Marshal and the Department of Banking and Finance.

2007 Charlie Crist inaugurated as 44th governor.

2010 Rick Scott elected 45th governor