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C. Farris Bryant Papers

Identifier: MS 288

Scope and Content

The papers of Farris Bryant cover his political and public career from 1942 to 1970, with the bulk of the material falling between 1950 and 1970. Bryant's entire career is represented: his years in the legislature, his term as House Speaker, his campaigns for governor in 1956 and 1950, and his years in the administration of President Lyndon Johnson. Included in the papers is Bryant's correspondence with various public and business leaders, correspondence concerning his 1960 election campaign, his federal service, and papers for his 1956 and 1960 campaigns (including speeches, press releases, campaign literature, memoranda, reports). A complete set of speeches from 1942 to 1970, papers from his years in the Florida legislature, transcripts of his news conferences as governor and files of investigations by Bryant's staff investigators are to be found in the papers.

The collection consists of correspondence, typewritten and handwritten notes, printed materials, speeches, news releases, transcripts, memoranda, drafts of proposed legislation, articles, platforms, and minutes of meetings.


  • Creation: 1942-1977



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

Cecil Farris Bryant was born in Marion County, Florida on July 26, 1914, the son of Cecil and Lela (Farris) Bryant. His uncle, Ion Farris, served with distinction in the Florida House of Representatives from Duval County from 1907 to 1913, serving as Speaker of the House in 1909 and 1913; he later served in the Florida State Senate from the 19th district (1915-1917), and was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1916. Bryant's family was of modest means. His father was a farmer and a bookkeeper, but Bryant succeeded in attending the University of Florida, receiving a degree in Business Administration, and later received a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1938. Returning to Florida, he was employed as an auditor in the State Comptroller's office before returning to Ocala to establish a law practice. In 1940 Bryant married Julia Burnett, who died in 1996. The Bryants have three daughters: Julia Lovett, Cecilia Ann, and Allison Adair.

Bryant began his political career in 1942, when he was elected as State Representative from Marion County. Soon after, however, he resigned and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving from 1942-1945 as an officer in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Pacific theaters. After the war, Bryant was again elected to the State House from Marion County in 1946. He served for five terms 1947-1955, becoming one of the most prominent and powerful leaders of the House. He was elected speaker in 1953, and receive numerous awards for his work in the legislature, including "Most Outstanding Member of the Florida Representatives" from state newspaper editors and writers. He served as head of the Florida delegation to the Democratic National Conventions in 1952 and 1956, and was an alternate delegate to the 1964 Democratic Convention.

Bryant made two campaigns for election to the Office of Governor. The first came in 1956. Plagued by money problems, bad press, and inadequate organization, Bryant came in third in the Democratic Primary behind Governor LeRoy Collins. In 1960, Bryant made another run for the nomination, this time with more financing and a better organization. He led a large field in the first primary, setting up a run-off against Doyle E. Carlton, Jr., the son of former governor Doyle E. Carlton, Sr., the candidate supported Governor Collins. Racial conflict was the central issue of the campaign. Bryant, a strong though non-violent segregationist, succeeded in painting Carlton as a moderate integrationist, and easily won by 300,000 votes over is Republican opponent, although Richard Nixon defeated John F. Kennedy for President in the state.

As governor, Bryant continued to support and emphasize programs he had backed as a legislator. He pushed for increased funding for higher education, supported and started construction on the Cross-Florida Barge Canal project, and completed the Ft. Pierce-Wildwood extension of the Florida Turnpike. He fought for the establishment of Florida Atlantic University at Boca Raton, and a new funding formula for state highway projects. He began planning major road construction projects in the state. Bryant's administration initiated a thorough investigation of the State Road Department. In the field of racial matters, despite Bryant's campaign pledge to maintain school segregation, he permitted local school districts to integrate voluntarily. His record of vocal opposition to the civil rights movement prevented him from being able to ameliorate the St. Augustine racial crisis of 1963-1964, because civil rights leaders mistrusted him. Bryant also supported attacks on organized crime and government corruption. Unable to succeed himself, he left the governorship in 1965.

After leaving the governor's office, Bryant returned to his law practice in Jacksonville. In 1966, he was appointed Director of the U.S. Federal Office of Emergency Planning by Lyndon Johnson, serving as head of emergency planning for the United States, as a member of the U.S. National Security Council, and as President Johnson's liaison with the states. He resigned this post in 1967, but served as chairman of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental relations until 1969. Trying once more for elective office in 1970, Bryant sought the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, the seat being vacated by veteran Spessard L. Holland. Bryant was defeated in a Democratic primary run-off by state senator Lawton M. Chiles. Afterwards, Bryant retied from public life and resumed the practice of law in Jacksonville. He died March 1, 2002.


26.9 Linear feet (34 Boxes, 23 Scrapbooks)

Language of Materials



The papers of Farris Bryant cover the years 1942 to 1977, with an emphasis on the Florida Legislative, gubernatorial elections in 1956 and 1960, and his career in the Federal Office of Emergency Planning. Most of the papers were generated by Bryant himself or organizations of which Bryant was a part of; there are some papers that pertain to the operation of state agencies that were of interest to Bryant, such as the Board of Control, the Turnpike Authority, and the State Road Department (1961-1967). These provided scholars with a survey of Florida in the 1950s and 1960s as well as providing information on various aspects of Bryant himself. The Bryant papers are of interest to researchers interested in Florida legislative and gubernatorial politics and activities in the period from 1950-1960, covering such area as integration, the Florida Turnpike, the 1956 and 1960 gubernatorial campaigns, the 1960 Presidential campaign in Florida, education, and the Cross-Florida Barge Canal. In all, the collection contains information on subjects of interest to historians that, when used in conjunction with other sources, provide a picture of Florida in the post-World War II era.


The C. Farris Bryant Papers consists of ten records series.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

The Bryant Papers were donated to the University of Florida by Farris Bryant.

Alternative Format Available

Items from this collection have been digitized and are available online in the UF Digital Collections. Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

A Guide to the C. Farris Bryant Papers
Finding aid prepared by James R. Mathis, 1988
August 2004
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America