Brooklyn Footprints in Florida: David Sholtz

Brooklyn Footprints In Florida is complied,
edited, and written by Palmer Hasty

Brooklyn native David Sholtz served as Florida’s governor during the great depression.

One of our high profile Brooklyn Footprints in Florida would be that of David Sholtz, a Brooklyn native born to Jewish parents in 1891. Sholtz served as Florida Governor during the great Depression, from 1933 to 1937. We found the original article from a December, 1925 Brooklyn Daily Eagle that mentions Sholtz as a potential Governor for Florida. At the time of the article Sholtz was living in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he had moved immediately following his graduation from Yale in 1914.

Brooklyn native David Sholtz being sworn in as Governor of Florida.

He also earned a Law Degree from Stetson University in 1915. In addition to being a State’s Attorney for 2 years and a City Judge in Florida, Sholtz was the President of the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce, which at the time was the second largest Chamber in the country. He was also Director of several local banks and President of the Florida State Elks Association. He was in a good position to enter politics.
While reporting on the training camp of the Brooklyn National League Baseball Club in Daytona Beach several years prior to the 1925 article, the Eagle also mentioned the probability of David Sholtz one day being the first “Northern man” to become Governor of Florida. Eight years after the 1925 article Sholtz did just that, he was elected Florida’s 26th Governor in 1932. Merlin Cox wrote in the 1964 Forida Historical Quarterly that Sholtz “was not the familiar cloth from which Florida Governors are made.”

Florida Governor David Sholtz (center) with President D. Roosevelt in Jacksonville, Florida.

Even two of Sholtz’s associates in his law firm in Daytona Beach ridiculed him for wanting to run without support from what was called “the courthouse ring of Volusia County.” But Sholtz did not agree and was determined to be Governor of Florida. He paid his filing fee and started campaigning. As Cox wrote: “In the second primary he received the largest vote ever recorded for a candidate in the history of the state up to that point.”

Gene Burnett wrote about David Sholtz in Florida Trend magazine, calling him “the darkest of dark horses” in the race for Governor. Burnett further described the Brooklyn native’s candidacy this way: “…he had ethnic and regional image problems that would have hog-tied any mere tourist, much less a seeker of the state’s highest office, in that hard-shell Cracker and Bible Belt land that was so much of Florida in the l930s… Wiser wags and cynics smiled benignly if somewhat in disbelief at this genial, urbane, portly little upstart, as if to ask: What’s a nice little Yankee Jewish boy like you doing among these native son giants who will cut you up like so much fish bait? No one took David Sholtz seriously, except the unnervingly optimistic David himself. Even up to final election eve, state gambler odds against him were 200 to one.” As Florida Governor he established the Florida Park System and the Citrus Commission. He had to deal with the effects of the Great Depression and President Roosevelt’s New Deal policies and yet passed a Worker’s Compensation Law as well as a mandate for free text books and funded salaries in public schools.
He retired in New York while maintaining his Florida residency and practiced law in Palm Beach until his death in March of 1953. He is buried in Florida at the Cedar Hills Memorial Gardens in Daytona.

Official painting of Florida Governor David Sholtz hanging in the State Capital building in Tallahassee, Florida.