Skip to main content

Richard Allen Pettigrew Papers

Identifier: Ms 082

Scope and Content

The papers in this collection relate to Pettigrew’s service in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate, his unsuccessful U.S. Senate primary campaigns in 1974 and 1980, and his appointments to various civil and advisory boards, most notably his tenure as Chairman of the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida. The collection, therefore, is divided into four sections: 1) legislative files and correspondence, 2) general files including biographical materials, speeches, and correspondence, 3) political (or campaign) files, and 4) Committees and organizations. The latter includes his service from 1977 through the late-1980s including his work for President Carter’s Executive Committee on Reorganization, the Advisory Committee on Florida’s Future, and the Governor’s Commission on a Sustainable South Florida files. Although the final reports of this commission can be found online, Pettigrew’s papers on the Governor’s Commission provide greater depth through correspondence, speeches and committee research.

Pettigrew, a veteran legislator, took an active role in Constitutional Revision Committee proceedings between 1965 and 1969. Much of the material in his legislative files pertains to Constitutional Revision correspondence, meetings, and hearings. Other issues addressed in the collection include criminal justice reform, Cuban affairs, environmental protection, insurance, natural resources, and state government organization. Pettigrew’s failed political campaigns for Senate also occurred during a transformative time in U.S. history—the rightward shift in American politics and the political realignment of southern white voters from the party of Franklin Roosevelt to the party of Ronald Reagan. In short, Pettigrew’s career as a southern Democratic politician is a microcosm for larger post-Civil Rights political developments.


  • 1957-2001



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

Richard A. Pettigrew was born in Charleston, West Virginia on June 10, 1930. Pettigrew served in the United States Air Force and spent time in Korea and Japan. In 1953, he graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts degree before attending law school and becoming an attorney in Miami. Pettigrew served in the Florida House of Representatives between 1963 and 1972. In 1969-1970, he became chairman of the Florida House Governmental Operations Committee and sponsored the 1969 reorganization act, which consolidated state agencies. From 1971 to 1972, Pettigrew served as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. In 1970, as House speaker, he called for an investigation of the five-member state racing commission after they voted to allow dog tracks to compete with horse tracks for gambling revenues. One year later, he directed efforts to reorganize three major agencies in Florida’s state government: Probation and Parole Commission, Department of Education, and Public Service Commission. Pettigrew presided over the Florida House of Representatives during a period of political transformation in the state’s history. Prior to the late-1960s and legislative reapportionment, rural conservative legislators known as “porkchoppers” maintained a firm grip on state government. Pettigrew sought to modernize the state’s political infrastructure and largely succeeded in doing so by securing much needed constitutional revisions. Hoping to capitalize on his record in the House, Pettigrew ran for the U.S. Senate in 1974. Newspapers praised him for his integrity and the reputation of state government during his tenure as Speaker. Pettigrew, however, lost the Democratic primary to former Florida Secretary of State Richard Stone.

In 1976, Pettigrew became an early supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter and even nominated Carter during a mock convention speech at a Florida State Democratic Party meeting. Although the convention was an unofficial affair, Pettigrew’s speech brought Carter to the attention of national publications. In 1977, Pettigrew moved to Washington, D.C. to become assistant to the president for reorganization. Upon leaving the Carter White House, Pettigrew returned to practicing law. In 1980, he ran for the U.S. Senate again, only to lose in the Democratic primary to Congressman Bill Gunter. Republican Paula Hawkins defeated Gunter in the November general election. From 1981 to 1987, Pettigrew served on the Advisory Committee on Florida’s Future and, from 1984 to 1988, he was chairman of the Dade County Democratic Party. In 1994, Governor Lawton Chiles tapped Pettigrew lead the Governor’s Commission on a Sustainable South Florida, a body tasked with discerning ways to foster economic growth without destroying the environment in counties from Orlando to Key West.


13 Linear feet (13 boxes)

Language of Materials



Political and legislative papers of Richard Allen Pettigrew, as well as campaign materials for his unsuccessful bids to the U.S. Senate in 1974 and 1980.


Please note that this collection is housed in the Auxiliary Library Facility off campus and will require advance notice for timely retrieval. Please contact the Special and Area Studies Collections department prior to your visit.University of Florida Smathers Library Building.

Processing Notes

Three cartons related to the Governor’s Commission on a Sustainable South Florida were added in April 2018. The collection was reboxed at that time. Box numbers differ from an earlier version of the finding-aid.

A Guide to the Richard Allen Pettigrew Papers
Finding aid created by Dept. Staff (Updated by David Meltzner in 2018)
September 2011
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
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