Heritage stands corrected! Florida has had a Jewish governor


December 14, 2018

Dear Editor:

I continue to look forward to reading the Heritage to keep up with both the local happenings and global Jewish news. In the Nov. 30 issue, you ran a story titled, “Meet Carlos Lopez-Cantera: Florida’s first Jewish governor (for five days).” We now know that this is not going to transpire, but if it had, he would not have been the first Jewish governor of Florida. We had a full term, elected Jewish governor in 1933.

David Sholtz (1891–1953) was elected as Florida’s 26th governor with the largest vote ever given to a gubernatorial candidate. He was inaugurated in Tallahassee on Jan. 3, 1933. Sholtz served one term until Jan. 5, 1937. He started the New Deal several months prior to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was inaugurated that March. Sholtz, a dynamic public speaker, took the reins of state government when the worst effects of the Great Depression were being felt in Florida. During his tenure as governor, he established the Florida Park Service and Florida Citrus Commission, passed a workers compensation law, mandated free textbooks in public schools, and funded salaries for public school teachers. While in office, he paid the bills and was a strong advocate of governmental restructuring.

Sholtz graduated from Yale University in 1914 and then Stetson Law School in 1915. He established careers in the business and legal fields in Daytona Beach. Sholtz served in the U.S. Navy during World War I, as state representative in 1917, a state attorney from 1919 to 1921, a city judge in 1921 and also as National Grand Exalted Ruler of the Elks. 

David Sholtz was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants who had come to Brooklyn, New York, then to Daytona in 1914. Sholtz’s father Michael erected the first concrete bridge across the Halifax River in Daytona Beach and so loved Brooklyn baseball that he built another Ebbets Field in Daytona Beach as a winter training camp for the team—in 1916—the year they won the pennant as the Brooklyn Robins. The Brooklyn Dodgers had changed their name to the Robins in 1914 in honor of their new manager, Wilbert Robinson and used this logo until 1925. The name changed back to the Dodgers in 1932.

In his last public speech, Sholtz said, “I have followed our President’s example... substituting food for words, work for idleness, hope for despair.”

After leaving the Governor’s Mansion, he continued his law practice and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1938, losing the Democratic primary to Claude Pepper. He is buried in Daytona Beach.

Marcia Jo Zerivitz

L.H.D., Founding Executive Director, Jewish Museum of Florida - FIU

Initiator & Board, Jewish American Heritage Month - JAHM

Author, Curator, Lecturer & Nonprofit Consultant 


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