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Tallahassee Democrat: Bill Cotterell: History abounds in Moore’s ‘Speakers’

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Historian Ed Moore uses an interesting quote from Thomas Hardy toward the start of his newly published history of modern Florida House speakers: “The beauty or ugliness of a character lay not only in its achievements, but in its aims and impulses; its true history lay not among things done, but among things willed.”

In other words, we should remember political leaders not for what they did, but what lofty goals they sought to attain.

Novelist Allen Drury put it better in one of his Washington tales, “Capable of Honor.” We may address their mail to “The Honorable … ,” but we don’t really elect honorable leaders. The best we can hope for is that they’ll be capable of honor.

Moore, who does history commentaries for WFLA-FM and pens occasional My Views for the Tallahassee Democrat, is president of the Florida Independent Colleges and Universities Inc. Having a lobbyist write a history of political leaders assures the House a gentle touch, but Moore is writing in the mold of the great House Clerk Allen Morris, who left a marvelous trove of writings on the language, people and events of the Legislature.

Reading history is more entertaining when you knew, and in some cases still know, the participants. For those who were in Tallahassee when Democrats ran everything, “The Speakers Vol. II (1994-2012)” (available for $9 at the House’s Office of the Clerk) gets more interesting, the further back you go in time.

Moore, who wasn’t paid to write the book, provides a factual, if overly tactful, look back at this transitional time in Florida politics. He doesn’t mention how Speaker Johnnie Byrd, R-Tampa, once referred to House members as sheep in need of a good shepherd. He dutifully summarizes the facts of Speaker Ray Sansom’s fall, without going into opinions about his $110,000-a-year employment by North Florida State College on the day he became speaker, or the $6 million airport hangar project that led to his resignation without presiding over a single day of a regular session.

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