LeRoy Collins: Lightning Rod
As a moderate, Governor LeRoy Collins bore the brunt of white anger over integration, especially after his so-called “Moral Code” speech on March 20, 1960. The wave of student sit-ins at lunch counters that began in Greensboro, North Carolina that February had already spread to Florida. Frustrated by the quick tempers on both sides of the integration debate, Collins confronted segregation as a moral and ethical issue. The emotional speech is remarkable for its honesty and willingness to chide white Floridians for their lack of empathy. Collins would never be elected to public office again, as his straight talk about racial matters angered more voters than it impressed at the time.