George LeMieux: author
George LeMieux has an impressive resume. The chairman of one of the state’s largest law firms, Gunster Law Firm, graduated with honors from Emory University and was president of his fraternity. He was cum laude from Georgetown Law and interned for former U.S. Congressman E. Clay Shaw, Jr. and U.S. Senator Connie Mack III. He was chairman of the Broward County Republican Party. He became deputy attorney general for Florida, chief of staff in the attorney general’s office under Gov. Charlie Crist, and served two years in the United States Senate. The LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University is named for him.
Add to that formidable list another credit: author. Hot off the presses of The History Press in South Carolina is Florida Made—The 25 Most Important Figures Who Shaped The State. LeMieux wrote the book with co-author Laura E. Mize, a former reporter for the Palm Beach Post. They worked on it for several years and ranked their top 25 according to importance. If you guessed Henry Flagler is first on the list, you are right. But that’s about the only one you are likely to hit on the nose.
That is acknowledged in the introduction: “Some of our choices will surprise you. Quite a few may be unknown to you. A couple will be unpopular.” The selection and rankings are based on this question: “If that person had not contributed to Florida in the way he or she did, what would have happened? It is not enough that a person was the first to do something significant. The real question is: Absent his or her influence, how would Florida be different?”
Thus we find high on the list, in third place, is a fellow many would recognize by the shortened form of his full name, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz. (See what they mean by unpopular?) And you have to go all the way to the bottom of the list to find anyone who is still with us. H. Wayne Huizenga, who Gold Coast magazine described a few years ago as second only to Henry Flagler in his contributions to the state, made the cut, but just barely.
Obviously, the book is something of a surprise party, and we won’t spoil that celebration by revealing all the names. Let’s just say authors LeMieux and Mize make good cases for their selections and support their scholarship with 62 pages of notes and a bibliography. It’s an easy read—even fun—and often entertaining in its rationale for some of the choices. It's a creative education even for those who think they know 500 years of Florida history.