Spurrier, Shula, Ponce de Leon among latest 'Great Floridians'

Gov. Rick Scott bestows honor on 21 people


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The number of "Great" individuals in Florida is now greater than it was.

Gov. Rick Scott bestowed the "Great Floridian" honor on 21 individuals with connections to the Sunshine State on Wednesday.

Over the past two weeks, Scott dubbed both University of Florida football great Tim Tebow and South Florida businessman H. Wayne Huizenga with the designation.

The 2013 class also includes former Miami Dolphin coach Don Shula, General Norman Schwarzkopf, golfer "Bubba" Watson, and 16th Century Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León, each recognized for making significant contributions to the progress and welfare of Florida.

"It's just trying to find people that have done something significant in our state," Scott said when asked how the individuals were selected on Tuesday.

"It's a good thing that we have such great people all around our state. One of the great things about the 19.2 million people living in our state is that you can be proud of a lot of them," Scott added. "There are a lot of great people who live in Florida."

The tribute, first awarded in 1981 to Gov. Thomas LeRoy Collins, who served from 1955 to 1961, has been given to 89 individuals, including those named Wednesday.

Others in the 2013 "Great Floridian" class include: former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Alto Lee Adams; Florida State University and Tampa Bay Buccaneers football player Derrick Brooks; former Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson; UF professor James Robert Cade, the inventor of Gatorade; Walt Disney; former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy; former attorney general and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Ervin; Dr. Pedro Jose Greer, Jr., the founder of the Camillus Health Concern and St. John Bosco Clinic; former state senator and U.S. Congressman Bill Gunter; Charlotte McGuire, MD, the "Mother of the FSU Medical School;" General Craig McKinley; Palm Beach fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer; Betty Sembler, founder of Straight, Inc., Save Our Society From Drugs, and the Drug Free America Foundation, Inc.; UF and NFL football player Emmitt Smith; author Patrick Smith; former UF Heisman Trophy winner and coach Steve Spurrier; and farmer Ruth Springer Wedgworth.

A committee comprised of the governor, the Cabinet, the Senate President and House Speaker, nominate the candidates, with the Secretary of State actually getting to make the final selection.

In the 1980s, only six individuals received the honor.

In 2011 and 2012, there were 17 new "Great Floridians," including former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, former Gov. Jeb Bush, inventor Thomas Alva Edison (a snowbird from New Jersey), Publix-founder George Washington Jenkins, and Bernardo de Galvez, a Spanish military leader who aided the Continental Army by defeating the British in the 1781 Battle of Pensacola.