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Francis Eppes VII
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Francis Eppes VII

Francis Eppes VII, grandson of President Thomas Jefferson, moved from Virginia to Florida in 1829, and settled in Leon County, home of the state's capital city, Tallahassee. He had spent his formative years at Monticello, Jefferson's Virginia estate, where he had come to appreciate his grandfather's view that a liberally educated citizenry is of critical importance in a democracy. Once in Florida, Eppes took an active interest in educational issues in his new home state. In Tallahassee, he began 35 years of distinguished service to his community. In 1833, Eppes was appointed one of fourteen justices of the peace in Leon County. He served as Intendant (mayor) of Tallahassee from 1841-1844 and again from 1856-1857.

On January 24, 1851, the General Assembly of Florida Legislature, enacted a bill establishing two seminaries of learning in the young state, one east of the Suwannee River and one to the west of it. Until this time, public educational facilities in the area were practically nonexistent. As determined by the General Assembly, the two cities that offered the best facilities would become homes to the new schools. Francis Eppes and other Tallahassee civic leaders worked to bring the West Florida Seminary to the capital city.

In 1857, the Florida Institute, established in 1854 as a school for boys, began operating as the Seminary West of the Suwannee on the site where the Westcott fountain and plaza stand today. Eppes served on the Seminary's Board of Trustees for eleven years and for the last eight of those years he served as president of the Board. While president, Eppes brought to the school the Jeffersonian ideals which characterize The Florida State University today.

In 1868 Eppes moved to Orlando where he lived until his death in 1881.

Francis Eppes . . . pioneering leader, benefactor, patriarch . . . The Florida State University

Source:

  • Sellers, Robin Jeanne, Ph.D. The Jefferson Connection, 1996.
  • Edwards, Steve, Dean of the Faculties


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