Florida Southern College

Center for Florida History

The Lawton M. Chiles Center for Florida History strives to enhance the teaching, study, and writing of Florida history.

Founded in 2001, the Center seeks to preserve the state’s past through cooperative efforts with historical societies, preservation groups, museums, public programs, media, and interested persons.

As such, the Center’s long-term goals are to:

  • Expand and upgrade the Florida Lecture Series.
  • Offer training in Florida history for public and private school teachers.
  • Work with and advise historical associations in the collection and preservation of historical artifacts, including oral histories, photographs, and manuscripts.
  • Hold symposia on special topics in Florida history.
  • Host a visiting scholar in Florida history.
  • Publish new and out-of-print works of Florida history.
  • Continue and add to our Oral History Collection.

This unique center, housed in the Sarah D. and L. Kirk McKay, Jr., Archives Center is a source of continuing information created to increase appreciation for Florida history.

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Florida Lecture Series

The lecture series covers a wide range of disciplines, including history, public affairs, law, sociology, criminology, anthropology, literature, and art. The overall objective of the series is to bring members of the community, the faculty, and the student body together to interact with and learn from leading scholars in their fields.

Florida Lecture Series

Violence in the Rural South: Murder, Ticks and Cows
Claire Strom
Professor, Rollins College

In the remote rural sections of the South, resistance to mandatory tick eradication treatment of cattle was unusually strong and sometimes violent. Cattle farmers perceived a double threat in tick eradication mandates. In addition to their added costs, eradication schemes, with their topdown imposition of government expertise, were anathema to the yeomanry’s notions of liberty. Claire Strom examines this vexing history while uncovering the human drama in this story. A specialist in agricultural history, the American South, the Progressive Era, and public health, Strom is the Rapetti-Trunzo Chair of History at Rollins College, where for many years she served as editor of Agricultural History. She is the winner of the Gladys L. Baker Lifetime Achievement Award from the Agricultural History Society. She is the author of many books and essays, including Making Catfish Bait Out of Government Boys: The Fight Against Cattle Ticks and the Transformation of the Yeoman South (2010) and Profiting from the Plain: The Great Northern Railway and Corporate Development of the American West (2007). Currently, she is writing about the global history of cattle.

This lecture is generously sponsored by Historic Lakeland, Inc.

Location: Hollis Room

This event is open to the public.

January 26 @ 7:00 PM EST

Florida Lecture Series

“From Florida Southern College to London to Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Elton John & Mick Jagger”: An Evening of Songs, Stories & “Up Close” Rock & Roll Photographs
Rick Norcross
Musician/Journalist, Burlington, Vermont

It’s been nearly 60 years since Rick Norcross first stepped foot on the campus of Florida Southern College as a freshman from East Hardwick, Vermont. It’s been a wild ride ever since. Within weeks after coming to FSC, Norcross won the “Hootenanny Contest” at the Polk Theater in Downtown Lakeland and within another year, he opened a Greenwich Village-style coffeehouse (The Other Room) just off the Florida Southern campus. After playing the folk clubs of England in 1965, Norcross returned to Florida to study journalism at the University of South Florida and was soon covering the music scene for The Tampa Times during Tampa’s Golden Age of Music (1969 to 1974). Norcross interviewed and photographed such stars as Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, the Byrds, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and hundreds of others. In 1974, he left the area to resume playing music full time. Today, Norcross works out of Burlington, Vermont, where he fronts his award winning sevenpiece western swing band, Rick & The All-Star Ramblers. He has been a touring musician for 58 years, has recorded 12 albums, and has won many awards. Norcross’ long career and multitude of experiences make for an exciting and entertaining night of music and stories.

Location: Branscomb Auditorium

This event is open to the public.

February 16 @ 7:00 PM EST

Florida Lecture Series

Good Day Sunshine State: How the Beatles Rocked Florida
Bob Kealing
Writer, Orlando

Author Bob Kealing uncovers a little-known nexus between the Beatles, MLK, and civil rights activism in Northeast Florida. With dozens of new interviews and access to rare, primary source documents and letters from the Beatles and their entourage, Kealing examines their nearly two weeks spent in Florida during their watershed year, 1964. The Fab Four evolved from wideeyed tourist newcomers, to young Florida Rock and Roll Hall of Famers to be, and finally to outspoken advocates for equality who opposed the Vietnam War and insisted on integration at their historic Gator Bowl concert on September 11, 1964. Bob Kealing was an Edward R. Murrow and five-time Emmy award-winning reporter for WESH-TV in Orlando. Kealing is the author of five books on Florida culture and history, including his most recent The Beatles, Good Day Sunshine State: Innocence, Influence and Activism in 1964 Florida. Kealing is also the author of Elvis Ignited: The Rise of an Icon in Florida (2017) and Calling Me Home: Gram Parsons and the Roots of Country Rock (2015). Kealing currently serves as Public Information Officer for the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.

Location: Branscomb Auditorium

This event is open to the public.

March 16 @ 7:00 PM EST

Don’t miss a thing!

Watch on YouTube

Starting in 2021 we are live streaming our lectures from Branscomb Auditorium. Check out the Florida Southern College YouTube channel to watch past lectures!

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Past Florida Lecture Series and Speakers

Among our Series speakers have been distinguished leaders, historians, writers, and public officials such a Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, Janet Reno, Douglas Brinkley, H.W. Brands, and Robert V. Remini. Learn More about our past series and speakers 

Recent Publications

Book: None Can Have Richer Memories Polk County, Florida, 1940-2000

None Can Have Richer Memories Polk County, Florida, 1940-2000
Canter Brown, Jr.
Polk County Historical Association

Book: Echoes from a Distant FrontierThe Brown Sisters' Correspondence from Antebellum Florida

Echoes from a Distant Frontier
The Brown Sisters’ Correspondence from Antebellum Florida

Edited by:
James M. Denham
Keith L. Huneycutt

Book: In the Midst of All That Makes Life Worth Living:Polk County, Florida, to 1940

In the Midst of All That Makes Life Worth Living:
Polk County, Florida, to 1940

Canter Brown, Jr.
Commissioned by the Polk County Historical Association

Book: "A Rogue's Paradise"Crime and Punishment in Antebellum Florida,1821-1861

"A Rogue's Paradise"
Crime and Punishment in Antebellum Florida,

James M. Denham

Book: Cracker Times and Pioneer Lives, The Florida Reminiscences of George Gillett Keen and Sarah Pamela Williams

Cracker Times and Pioneer Lives, The Florida Reminiscences of George Gillett Keen and Sarah Pamela Williams
Edited by:
James M. Denham
Canter Brown, Jr.

Book: Florida Sheriffs: A History 1821-1945

Florida Sheriffs: A History 1821-1945
William Warren Rogers
James M. Denham

Book: Fifty Years of Justice

Fifty Years of Justice
James M. Denham

Book: Florida Founder - William P. Duval - Frontier Bon Vivant

Florida Founder - William P. Duval - Frontier Bon Vivant
James M. Denham

Book: The Letters of George Long Brown - A Yankee Merchant on Florida's Antebellum Frontier

The Letters of George Long Brown
Edited by:
James M. Denham
Keith L. Huneycutt

Support the Center for Florida History

Individuals, corporations, and foundations provide the funds for an endowment and to pay for the operations and programs. If you are interested in supporting the Center for Florida History and its various initiatives, you can contact the Center or the FSC Advancement Office for a pledge card, or you may easily make a gift online.

Give Today

Questions? Contact

James M. Denham, Ph.D.

Executive Director - Center for Florida History


Find us in the McKay Archives Building (AR)