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Office History

The Secretary of State is among the oldest executive offices in Florida government. The predecessor of the modern-day office was established in 1821 when Florida became a United States territory. Territorial secretaries were appointed by the President and confirmed by Congress. Florida’s seven territorial secretaries effectively served as a lieutenant governor assuming the administrative duties of government when the Territorial Governor was absent. Florida’s first territorial secretary, George Walton, acted in this capacity until William P. Duval, the first civilian governor of the Territory of Florida, assumed office.

When Florida was admitted as a state in 1845, James T. Archer, an attorney from Tallahassee, became the first Secretary of State. The main responsibilities of the office included maintaining the state’s public records and acting as custodian of the state seal, which was impressed on documents to certify them as official.

Florida’s Reconstruction period was a time of marked change in the South. Originally a minister and educator from Philadelphia, Jonathan Clark Gibbs became Florida’s first black Secretary of State when he was appointed by Governor Harrison Reed. Gibbs was Secretary for four years, and later served as the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.

As Florida's population grew in the 20th century so did the duties of the Secretary of State. In 1969, the Office of the Secretary of State was merged with several state agencies to form the Florida Department of State. In 1974, Governor Rubin Askew appointed Dorothy W. Glisson as the first female Secretary of State. With her appointment, Glisson also became the first woman to hold a post on the Florida Cabinet.

At the dawn of the new millennium, more changes were made to the office.  In 2003, the Secretary of State was no longer an elected official; secretaries since that time have been appointed by the Governor. Most recently, the Secretary also assumed the duties of Florida’s Protocol Officer promoting Florida as the center of American creativity to foreign officials. Additionally, in 2021 and 2022 respectively, the Secretary gained oversight of the Office of International Affairs and the Office of Election Crimes and Security.

For more than 200 years, the Office of Secretary of State has performed an important role in Florida’s governmental affairs. Today, the Secretary serves as the State Protocol Officer, Florida’s Chief Election Officer, Chief Arts and Culture Officer, and is the agency head of the Florida Department of State overseeing six divisions: Arts and Culture, Administrative Services, Corporations, Elections, Historical Resources, and Library and Information Services. While the duties of the office have broadened over the years, the Secretary’s primary responsibility continues to be to serve the people of Florida.

List of Secretaries

  1. James T. Archer, 1845-48
  2. Augustus E. Maxwell, 1848-49
  3. Charles W. Downing, Jr., 1849-53
  4. Fred L. Villepigue, 1853-63
  5. Benjermin F. Allen, 1863-68
  6. George J. Alden 1868
  7. Johnathan C. Gibbs, 1868-73
  8. Samuel B. Mclin, 1873-77
  9. William D. Bloxham, 1877-80
  10. Fredrick W.A. Rankin, Jr., 1880-81
  11. John Lovic Crawford, 1881-1902
  12. Henry Clay Crawford, 1902-29
  13. William Monroe Igou, 1929-30
  14. Robert Andrew Gray, 1930-61
  15. Thomas "Tom" Adams, Jr., 1961-71
  16. Richard B. Stone, 1971-74
  17. Dorothy W. Glisson, 1974-75
  18. Bruce A. Smathers, 1975-78
  19. Jesse J. McCrary, Jr., 1978-79
  20. George Firestone, 1979-87
  21. James C. "Jim" Smith, 1987-95
  22. Sandra B. Mortham, 1995-99
  23. Katherine H. Harris, 1999-2002
  24. James C. "Jim" Smith, 2002-03
  25. Kenneth W. Detzner, 2003
  26. Glenda E. Hood, 2003-05
  27. David E. Mann, 2005
  28. Sue M. Cobb, 2005-07
  29. Kurt S. Browning, 2007-10
  30. Dawn K. Roberts, Interim, 2010-11
  31. Jennifer Kennedy, Acting, 2011
  32. Kurt S. Browning, 2011-2012
  33. Ken Detzner, 2012-2019
  34. Michael Ertel, 2019
  35. Jennifer Kennedy, Interim, 2019
  36. Laurel M. Lee, 2019-2022
  37. Cord Byrd, 2022-

Secretaries of Distinction

Secretary of State Archer James T. Archer, a distinguished lawyer, served as Florida's first Secretary of State (1845-48).
Secretary of State Gibbs Johnathan C. Gibbs, who was appointed during reconstruction, was Florida's first Black Secretary of State (1868-73).
Sos -bloxham William D. Bloxham was Florida's first native born Secretary of State (1877-80). He later served two terms as governor of Florida. (1881-85, 1897-1901).
Sos -gray Robert Andrew Gray had the distinction of being Florida's longest-serving Secretary of State. (1930-61).
Some description Dorothy Glisson, appointed Secretary of State by Governor Askew in 1974, became the first woman to hold that position in Florida history, and the first woman to serve on the Florida Cabinet. Before her appointment, she served for two decades as the Director of the state elections office.