Everglades Biographies

William Sherman Jennings, 1863-1920

William Sherman Jennings was born March 24, 1863 near Walnut Hill, Illinois. He was a first cousin to William Jennings Bryan, congressman and three-time Democratic presidential nominee. Jennings attended the public schools in Marion County and graduated from Normal University in 1883. He studied law at the Union College of Law in Chicago and completed his law studies under the tutelage of his brother, Charles E. Jennings, who was the state attorney for Marion County. Jennings moved to Florida in 1885 and began a law practice in Brooksville, becoming the judge of Hernando County in 1888. In 1893, Jennings accepted an election to the state legislature and became speaker of the house in 1895. During the next few years, he served as a colonel in the Florida militia, president of the Brooksville town council and chairman of the Democratic committee. In 1900, Jennings was elected governor of Florida for the term from 1901 to 1905. While governor, Jennings is credited with coming up with the idea of draining the Everglades by cutting the natural rock dams in the rivers and allowing the water to run out. He was succeeded in the governorship of Florida by Napoleon Bonaparte Broward. After his term in office, Jennings practiced law in Brooksville and Jacksonville. He died on February 28, 1920.

Biography prepared by Ruthanne Vogel, University of Miami

Excerpt from "Message of Gov. W.S. Jennings to the Legislature of Florida Relative to Reclamation of Everglades, 1903", In Everglades of Florida : acts, reports, and other papers, state and national, relating to the Everglades of the state of Florida and their reclamation. Government Printing Office, 1911.

" will appear that the drainage of the Everglades is entirely feasible and practicable, thus reclaiming 3,760,000 acres, a large percentage of which would be available, and the most valuable agricultural land in the Southern States."



Portrait of Governor William Sherman Jennings

Photo courtesy of Florida Bureau of Archives & Records Management, Florida Photographic Collection


This site is designed and maintained by the Digital Collections Center -
Everglades Information Network & Digital Library at Florida International University Libraries
Copyright © Florida International University Libraries. All rights reserved.