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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

LaGaceta’s 95th Anniversary

Once again, I’m a week behind, but that’s the way historians work: Our analysis, by definition, is after the fact. So last week, when I wrote about Betsy Ross and the 4th of July, I said that I would follow up with thoughts on the 4th of July edition that marked LaGaceta’s anniversary. Well, actually, the 4th of July edition came out on Friday, June 30, but…

It nonetheless is appropriate to congratulate my colleagues on the excellent five-part holiday version of the paper. I had nothing whatever to do with this. Primary credit, I’m sure, goes to Patrick, Angie, and Gene, but it was lovely to be reminded of what a big family the 95-year-old paper has generated.

There was Pam Iorio, not only a former mayor but also a trained historian with a master’s degree from USF, earned under eminent Florida historian Gary Mormino. There was E.J. Salcines, not only a former prosecutor and judge, but also a historian specializing in West Tampa. I first realized how serious EJ was when he joined me on the board of the Center for Florida History at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Mike Denham runs that project and has built excellent archives, especially on sheriffs, prosecutors, and the judicial system. There was Manny Leto, who does similar work for the Tampa Bay History Center in Channelside, as well as other writers.

I learned the most from Tiffany Razzano’s interview with Ramona Manteiga, the last surviving child of Victoriano and Ofelia Manteiga, who founded the paper in 1922, and I have follow-up questions on that, too. I don’t know Armando Lopez, but his article on “The Special Runoff Election of 1954” was excellent. Most of it actually was a translation of Victoriano Manteiga’s thoughts on the race; in addition to writing in LaGaceta, he broadcast on Spanish radio. Lopez also made a point of comparing Manteiga’s consistent politeness to the foul language used by some modern politicians. Yes, you know who I’m talking about.

Florida had no lieutenant governor in 1954, and when Dan McCarty died less than a year after taking office, a special gubernatorial election was necessary. Well, actually, it was the runoff that followed a special Democratic primary, as there were virtually no registered Republicans in Florida back then. I suppose there was a general election, but don’t have a clue who the Republican nominee was. It didn’t matter in 1954.

But the Democratic primary did matter tremendously, as 1954 was the year the US Supreme Court ruled that states no longer could separate students by race. For more than a decade afterwards, Southern politicians outdid each other in defying the court – but LeRoy Collins did not. Special elections attract the most civic-minded people, and voters chose wisely, as Collins defeated Charley Johns. He was a notorious right-winger who believed that school integration was a plot imposed by communists and so anti-intellectual that he terrorized university professors in Gainesville and Tallahassee. He almost killed USF before it began, but now you’ll notice that a main street on the main campus is named for progressive LeRoy Collins. There’s nothing for Johns, and there won’t be. It’s a point that many conservatives fail to grasp: A regressive philosophy axiomatically means they never will have an honored place in progress.

More thoughts re the 95th

Even before I started writing for LaGaceta, I enjoyed the ads in holiday editions. They are charmingly personalized and not at all like the advertisements in big media. I study the names of the elected officers of labor unions, including the ironworkers, electricians, food workers, and more. I tore out the ad for Leto’s Sanitary Service as a reminder for the next time we have a plumbing problem -- and I looked for the horse named Thunder that Sam Leto used as his symbol when he was Ybor’s alcalde. I check out thoughtful, patriotic Independence Day messages from lawyers and government officials. My eye quickly caught the bright green ad from close friend Lynn Marvin Dingfelder promoting her new video production studio, Creative on Main Street. The Ybor City Development Corporation reminded people of the opportunity to engrave a stone on Ybor streets, something that Hubby and I have done twice. Out-of-town visitors always are impressed. Maybe I’ll do another for an upcoming 85th birthday.

And speaking of birthdays, I was so happy to see another “Tracks” column by my dear friend Lula Dovi. She will be 95 in November and inspires me by living alone, painting and writing, studying Spanish, and maintaining her activism in the Democratic Party. Lu was born in Seminole Heights in 1922, so she’s just a few months younger than LaGaceta. Her father was sheriff, appointed by reform Governor Doyle Carleton, but the dark forces that controlled Hillsborough County in that era kicked him out at the next election. Lu became a World War II widow at age 22, and if you want a copy of her interesting biography, please let me know.

I had intended to beat my friend Susan MacManus in writing about her new book, Florida’s Minority Trailblazers: The Men and Women Who Changed the Face of Florida. It’s entirely my fault, of course, because I waited too long. You know Dr. MacManus from her many appearances on national television, where she is known as THE commentator on Florida politics. She penned an article for the 95th edition about Tampa minority pioneers in government, including my old friend Elvin Martinez, so now my plan is to write on non-Tampa trailblazers. Despite my procrastination, I really have enjoyed the book, and it has enough fascinating stories to fill several columns. You can look for the first one soon.

Change of Topics: Lieutenant Governors

I mentioned above that Florida didn’t have a lieutenant governor in 1954, which inspires these thoughts from my work for Congressional Quarterly Press. Quoting myself: “The role of lieutenant governor varies greatly by state. In eight states, the office does not exist as such. In the event of a vacancy, the secretary of state or the senate president assumes the governorship, depending on the constitution of the state. [Charley Johns became acting governor because he was senate president when Governor McCarty died.] In 23 states, the governor and lieutenant governor run as a team. [This is what Florida does now, after revising our constitution in 1968.] In the others, constitutions cling to an older, more populist tradition: The governor and lieutenant governor run separately, with the not infrequent result that the two are from different parties and even political enemies.

“With further variations in the nominating process, as well as different constitutional powers, women’s history as lieutenant governors becomes very complex. One might expect that women would have come early to the secondary position, but in fact five women were elected as governors before the nation had its first female lieutenant governor. Between the first governors (elected in 1924) and the first lieutenant governor (elected in 1954), there was a gap of thirty years.

“This probably is not because women rejected the secondary place, but instead reflects a lack of imagination on the part of male gubernatorial nominees. In many ways lieutenant governorships are the ultimate in insider politics -- and insider politics never has done well by women. Until recently, social barriers prevented women from establishing good working relationships with men, and most male nominees simply did not know enough about women to choose one as a running mate.

“In a few states, lieutenant governors can be quite powerful. In Texas, the job has more constitutionally defined powers than the governor – and although Texas twice has elected women as governors, none yet has been lieutenant governor. California, too, has a powerful lieutenant governor – and although California has elected three women to the US Senate, none has been lieutenant governor.”

Florida, of course, has had no women as governor, and our only female US senator was elected in 1980. Two have been lieutenant governors, but Toni Jennings was appointed, not elected. The second was Jennifer Carroll, a black woman who ran with Rick Scott in 2010 and doubtless helped him defeat a white woman, Alex Sink. Two years later, Scott forced Carroll into resigning.

My favorite female lieutenant governor may be Thelma Stovall of Kentucky, who was elected to that position in 1975. Her first experience as acting governor, however, was when she was secretary of state -- a common office for women and one that Florida eliminated under Governor Jeb Bush. Stovall was Kentucky’s secretary of state on and off for three decades, and her first experience as acting governor was in 1959. Both the governor and lieutenant governor were out of state, and she took the opportunity to pardon three prisoners, one of whom had been sentenced to life for a very petty theft. Stovall was even more feisty in 1978, when as acting governor, she vetoed the legislature’s repeal of its ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Thelma Stovall was akin to many Tampa leaders in that she began life as a teenage worker in a tobacco factory. I wonder if she was kin to Wallace Stovall, long ago publisher of the Tampa Tribune? Let me know if you know.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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