TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Leroy Collins became governor of Florida in 1955, a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered desegregation. He is credited with keeping Florida from burning.
"We got this mob shouting there, but where are the people in the middle?" asked Collins.
Collins is considered one of the greatest governors in both Florida and the United States. His institute is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
"I don't do my work thinking in terms of what affect it might have on politics in the future," Collins said.
Miami Lawyer Gene Sterns says Washington would benefit if more leaders had Collins political courage.
"What we saw with him was courage and what we see today is the absence of courage," Sterns said.
Former St. Petersburg Times Reporter Martin Dyckman wrote Collin's biography.
"He was elected upon a promise to preserve segregation," Dyckman said. "The courage to change is one of the hardest things we have in life to face up to. Very few politicians can do it -- he did."
Collins is even responsible for the white lines on the side of the roadway, which could be a metaphor to modern, bickering politicians to stay in the middle.
Eventually it was Collin's civil rights work that ended his political future, but years later he didn't regret a thing.
"And if I had just remained silent and not done what I did, I would have forsaken what I strongly believe to be the right," Collins said.
Most agree that Collins would have found a compromise to keep government from shutting down.
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