Robert L. F. Sikes

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"Robert Sikes" redirects here. For other uses, see Robert Sikes (disambiguation).
Robert L. F. Sikes
Robert L F Sikes.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1963 – January 3, 1979
Preceded by Millard F. Caldwell
Succeeded by Earl Dewitt Hutto
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 3rd district
In office
January 3, 1941 – October 19, 1944
Preceded by Millard F. Caldwell
Succeeded by Vacant
In office
January 3, 1945 – January 3, 1963
Preceded by Vacant
Succeeded by Claude Pepper
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
In office
1937–1941
Personal details
Born June 3, 1906
Died September 28, 1994(1994-09-28) (aged 88)
Political party Democratic

Robert Lee Fulton "Bob" Sikes (June 3, 1906 – September 28, 1994) was a politician in the Democratic Party and represented the Florida Panhandle in the United States House of Representatives from 1941 to 1979, with a brief break in 1944 and 1945 for service during World War II.

He served during a long period in which Florida was effectively a one-party state dominated by Democrats, as the Republican Party had been weakened by the disfranchisement of most African Americans since the turn of the century by the state constitution and laws. The Republican Party began a resurgence late in this period as conservative whites realigned their politics. In 1975 Sikes was accused by Common Cause of financial misconduct and was investigated and censured by the House in 1976. He did not seek re-election in 1978.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Isabella, near Sylvester, Georgia, Sikes attended the public schools, which were segregated. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in 1927 from the University of Georgia at Athens, where he was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity. He went to Florida for graduate school, receiving a Master of Science in 1929 from the University of Florida at Gainesville.

Career[edit]

Sikes entered the publishing business, in Crestview in the Florida Panhandle, working in that field from 1933 to 1946.

He soon became active in politics, joining the Democratic Party, which was effectively the only party for whites in the state in the early part of his career. At the turn of the century, the Democrat-dominated legislature had passed a new constitution and laws that disenfranchised most African Americans, crippling the Republican Party, of which they had been the majority.[1] Sikes was elected in 1936 to the Florida House of Representatives, during the Great Depression and a landslide year for the Democrats, aligned with the popular President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Sikes was re-elected, serving until 1940.

Sikes was elected in 1940 to the Seventy-seventh Congress, and was re-elected to a second term in the Seventy-eighth Congress. His victory followed a bitter Democratic primary campaign.[2][3][4][5] As Florida was then essentially a one-party state, the Democratic primaries were effectively the true competitive races for office.

Sikes served from January 3, 1941, until his resignation on October 19, 1944, to enter the United States Army during World War II. He was commissioned as a major.[6] As a Congressman, Sikes had pressed for development in the state, including of Eglin Field as a test facility of the United States Army Air Forces, and later, the U.S. Air Force.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered all legislators on active duty to return to Washington, Sikes ran for his old seat in 1944 and won. He served in the 79th and 16 succeeding Congresses. Following the war, Sikes was selected as delegate, Interparliamentary Conference in Warsaw, Poland, in 1959.

Sikes was a colleague of representatives Courtney W. Campbell, a fellow Democrat, and William C. Cramer of St. Petersburg, who defeated Campbell in 1954 to become the first Republican elected in Florida to the House delegation since 1880 after Reconstruction.

Sikes in his memoir describes the Campbell-Cramer campaign of 1954:

Courtney Campbell hard-working, dedicated, and capable but ineffective in public speaking... Courtney couldn't cope with the articulate Bill Cramer on the platform... Cramer was articulate, a successful lawyer, and he already enjoyed some recognition in public life. In my effort to help Campbell, I said that Cramer, serving in a Democratic Congress, would be like a lost ball in high weeds. Bill never let me forget that statement, although subsequently we became good friends.[7]

Sikes was one of three co-hosts, along with Jack Edwards of Alabama and Trent Lott of Mississippi, of the Gulf Coast Congressional Report on WKRG-TV in Mobile, Alabama.

In 1975, Common Cause, a public-affairs lobbying group, accused Sikes of using his office for personal gain. He owned stock in a Pensacola Naval Air Station bank that had been established by government officials at his urging, as well as in military contractor Fairchild Industries, which benefited from government contracts. He failed to disclose his interest in both these companies in the requisite financial reports. Sikes was reprimanded by a 381-3 vote of the House of Representatives on July 26, 1976, for the financial misconduct. Sikes, a strong conservative, believed that "flaming liberals" had conspired against him.[8]

Later years, death and legacy[edit]

Sikes did not seek reelection in 1978 to Congress. Upon his political retirement, Sikes returned to Crestview. He lived in Crestview until his death on September 28, 1994.

  • The Bob Sikes Bridge, connecting Gulf Breeze to Santa Rosa Island, is named after him.
  • Bob Sikes Airport near Crestview/Okaloosa is named for him.
  • Bob Sikes Elementary School, located in Crestview, Florida

References[edit]

  1. ^ Richard M. Valelly, The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement University of Chicago Press, 2009, pp. 146-147
  2. ^ Crestview, Florida, "Monticello Mudslinger Shows Desperation In Losing Campaign", Okaloosa News-Journal, Friday 17 May 1940, Volume 26, Number 20, page 1.
  3. ^ Crestview, Florida, "The Public Wants To Know Where Mr. Mays Stands", Okaloosa News-Journal, Friday 17 May 1940, Volume 26, Number 20, page 1.
  4. ^ Crestview, Florida, "Monticello Mudslinger Smears Countryside Desperat [sic] Propaganda", Okaloosa News-Journal, Friday 24 May 1940, Volume 26, Number 21, page 1.
  5. ^ Crestview, Florida, "Mays Loses Temper And Tries To Stop Bob Sikes' Speech", Okaloosa News-Journal, Friday 24 May 1940, Volume 26, Number 21, page 1.
  6. ^ Florida prosperous in war year
  7. ^ Billy Hathorn, "Cramer v. Kirk: The Florida Republican Schism of 1970," The Florida Historical Quarterly, LXVII, No. 4 (April 1990), p. 406
  8. ^ "Bob Sikes, 'He-coon' of politics, dead at 88"

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Millard F. Caldwell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 3rd congressional district

1941 – 1944
Succeeded by
Vacant
Preceded by
Vacant
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 3rd congressional district

1945 – 1963
Succeeded by
Claude Pepper
Preceded by
Millard F. Caldwell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 1st congressional district

1963 – 1979
Succeeded by
Earl Dewitt Hutto