Florida’s Pork Choppers

Native Floridians who were around during the 1950s probably remember the powerful Pork Chop Gang, a group of 20 movers and shakers who controlled Florida politics via backroom deals and strategic positions in the legislature. I thought of them today because the most powerful member was Ed Ball who ran the St. Joe Paper Company (mentioned in yesterday’s post).

The group fought against desegregation, communists, and homosexuals. Above is a group photograph of the wheelers and dealers taken turning a 1956 special session of the state senate. (Florida Memory Photo). You can read an article on Florida Memory about the gang here.

According to Wikipedia, “The spokesperson was Senator Charley Johns. They ‘had become unusually powerful in the 1950s because the legislative districts of the state had not been redrawn to account for the massive growth of urban areas in earlier years.’ The key figure in the group, coordinating their activities, although not a legislator, was industrialist Ed Ball. Their favorite haunt was the fish camp of legislator Raeburn C. Horne, at Nutall Rise, in Taylor County on the Aucilla River.”

Fish Camp on the Aucilla River where deals were made. Florida Memory Photo

The group finally lost its power after 1962 when the U.S. Supreme Court decreed that the state (or if needed, the Federal Government) had to go through some serious reapportionment to ensure that representation was based on the current population’s distribution.

I don’t miss them.