Doyle Carlton House

A governor’s legacy on display

Doyle Carlton, a former governor of Florida, and his wife raised their ten children in a house in Hardee County. Now, that piece of history can be seen at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.

Doyle Elam Carlton was born on the sixth of July in 1885, west of what is now known as Wauchula, Florida, to Albert Carlton and Martha McEwen Carlton. Even though the majority of references cite the same day in 1887 as his birthday, his father documented his son’s birthday as 1885 in his pension application. Doyle’s younger brother, Leland Francis Carlton was born in January 1888, therefore making it impossible for him to have been born in July of 1887. Doyle received a primary education in Wauchula and then went on to Stetson Academy, since there was not yet a high school in their area. In 1909, he graduated from the Liberal Arts College of Stetson University with an A.B., which is essentially a Bachelor of Arts degree. After that, he went to Chicago University where he received another A.B. in 1910. Finally, in 1912, he graduated with an L.L.B., which is the equivalent of a Bachelor of Laws, from Columbia University of New York. It is safe to say that Doyle Carlton was a very educated man. Though Doyle Carlton was an attorney-at-law in Tampa for most of his life, he also served as a state senator in the 1917 and 1919 sessions as well as the Florida Governor from 1929 to 1933. He was part of the Democratic party. He was one of the leaders in coming up with a highway building program, campaigned to ratify the constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage, and introduced and secured passage of the first legislation in Florida that provided free textbooks to schools. He might have been considered quite progressive for his time. Unfortunately, his term as Governor was characterized by financial problems that arose from the Great Depression. However, by the end of his term, “Leland Hawes, historical writer for The Tampa Tribune, commented that Governor Carlton came out of his four-year term with a reputation for integrity in the face of great pressure.” In July of 1912, Doyle married Nell Ray and they had three children together. One of them, Doyle Carlton Jr., created the Cracker Country Museum, which is where the Carlton House is actually located today. In 1885, Albert and Martha Carlton built their house, now known as the Carlton House. They built their home just about four miles west of what is now Wauchula, in Hardee County. Doyle was the eighth child born out of ten. Almost unbelievably, Albert and Martha Carlton had nine boys and only one girl. Luckily for Ella, the only daughter, she got her own room, while the nine boys had to share one room that was approximately the same size as hers.

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