In the beginning ….

— Hulton Archive

What’s Happening in Florida?
Henry Morrison Flagler, Guilded Age Railroad Barron and Florida’s first Land Developer, greets a crowd upon his arrival on the first East Coast Railway train into Key West (January 22, 1912). Flagler built the FEC (railway) as a way of linking his string of hotels along Florida’s East Coast, St. Augustine, Ormond Beach, Palm Beach, and Miami. Finally, and most challenging, was continuing south, across seven miles of open, water to the small island of Key West. The southernmost point in the United States, just 90 miles north of Havana, Cuba, had been Flagler’s “moon,” the same as the Moon had always captured the imagination of another Florida dreamer, John F. Kennedy, who grew up in Palm Beach, just north on the island Flagler had built Whitehall, the mansion he called his Florida home. That after ten years at the Ormond Hotel, where he socialized with friends and fellow “titans,” John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Harvey S. Firestone, and Thomas A. Edison.

The Florida Alligator 
september 24, 1912
vol. 1 no. 1 The first edition of The Florida Alligator, was little more than a transcription of UF president Albert A. Murphree‘s opening speech to that year’s new students, 400 young, white men who had moved to Gainesville to attend, what Murphree described as one of America’s finest universities. The University of Florida was the South’s answer to the more established, Ivy League institutions, where students rowed a mean boat, but were nose-in-the-air pussies on a football field.

Murphree’s message was understandably propagandist, but still striking was how fundamentally Christian it was. Murphree preached, more than spoke, and it seemed that he was saying, “yes, The University of Florida was one of America’s finest universities, but more important, an even better religious institutions, or let’s say “Bible College” for the sake of daily-newspaper colloquialism.  

At the time, The Florida Alligator, was more a tool of the university’s always Christian conservative administration, than a trusted purveyor of news. Of course there were always those students who wanted to honestly report the news around them, but the University of Florida’s “newspaper” wasn’t the place to do it.

For sixty years, The Alligator would remain the university’s tool to tell the community how the Gator Athletic Department performed (some things stay the same), how acclaimed the professorial recruits were, and to explain (or hide) how the The University of Florida spent its money.

Not yet was The Alligator “allowed” to speak its mind, to be journalistic. To scrutinize, and report what the administration has been hiding behind its pages.   

The conflict and difference of opinion couldn’t have been more extreme than in the years college-age men (of any color) were killing and dying in Vietnam.