Great Floridian is a title bestowed upon citizens in the state of Florida by the Florida Department of State. There were actually two formal programs. Whereas the Great Floridian 2000 program honored deceased individuals who made “significant contributions in the history and culture" of Florida (many times within a local community), the new program is more restrictive, selecting those persons, dead or alive, who made “major contributions to the progress and welfare" of Florida.
Great Floridians 2000
The Florida Department of State and the Florida League of Cities created the program in 1998; it ran through 2000. The process bestowed commemorative blue plaques in Florida to honor deceased individuals who significantly contributed to Florida, similar to the blue plaques that are found in the United Kingdom. A total of 385 persons were so honored. The historians on the Great Floridians 2000 Committee either approved or rejected applications, which included a section for specifying an appropriate historical property where the marker would be mounted.
Great Floridians Program
In 2007, the legislature resurrected, revised and formalized the program in Florida Statute:
267.0731 Great Floridians Program.--The division (Florida Department of State) shall establish and administer a program, to be entitled the Great Floridians Program, which shall be designed to recognize and record the achievements of Floridians, living and deceased, who have made major contributions to the progress and welfare of this state.
Under the Statute, each year at least two people who have had an outstanding impact on Florida are nominated by an ad hoc committee of representatives of the Governor, each member of the Florida Cabinet, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Director of the Division of Historical Resources. Subsequently, the Secretary of State chooses among them.
Ten persons named in the new program were previously included in the Great Floridian 2000 program: Mary McLeod Bethune, Lawton M. Chiles, Henry Morrison Flagler, John Gorrie, Ben Hill Griffin, Jr., Spessard Holland, Zora Neale Hurston, May Mann Jennings, Dick Pope, Sr. and James Van Fleet.
As of 2013, 89 people had been honored.
On April 12, 2013, Governor Rick Scott presented Tim Tebow with the award at TPC at Sawgrass, just prior to Tebow's charity gala and golf tournament, attended by numerous celebrities and sports figures. Wayne Huizenga was similarly honored, but with less fanfare. Less than two weeks later, 21 additional persons were named in a press release on the governor's web page. Contrary to F.S. 267.0731, "Scott single-handedly chose most of the latest group", according to an article in the Tampa Bay Times.
- "Great Floridian Program". State of Florida. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- Browning, Kurt. "Secretary Browning Designates 2008 Great Floridians". March 14, 2008. State of Florida, Dept of State. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- "2007 Fla Statutes 267.0731/Great Floridians Program". 2007. State of Florida. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- Man, Anthony (April 15, 2013). "Governor names Wayne Huizenga 'Great Floridian'". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- "Gov. Scott Announces 2013 Class of Great Floridians". April 24, 2013. State of Florida. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- Bousquet, Steve (April 23, 2013). "Gov. Scott finding one 'Great Floridian' after another". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 23 May 2013.