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William Cotton IV

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William Charles Cotton IV
Member of the Florida Senate
from the 2nd district
In office
January 4, 1961 – January 3, 1977
Preceded byJ. Patrick Connor
Succeeded byGeorge Jeffress
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 2nd district
In office
January 4, 1953 – January 3, 1961
Preceded byDonald F. Bradley
Succeeded byChristopher Richards
Personal details
Born
William Charles Cotton IV

(1923-12-05) December 5, 1923 (age 97)
Charleston County, South Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic (since 1944)
Spouse(s)
Jane Scarlett (m. 1952)
Children5
MotherMary Rhodes Cotton
FatherWilliam C. Cotton III
EducationYale University (BA)
University of Alabama School of Law (JD)
University of Florida (Ph.D.)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Air Force
Years of service1942–1945
RankMajor
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsBronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star

William Charles Cotton IV (born December 5, 1923) is an American politician, author, historiographer, and archivist. He served in the Florida legislature as a member of the Democratic Party, after which he founded the National Institute for the Preservation of United States History.

Early life[edit]

Cotton was born in coastal Charleston County, South Carolina on December 5, 1923 to Mary Rhodes Cotton (1894-1979) and William Charles Cotton III (1888-1985). One of four siblings, the Cotton family’s ancestral home in Charleston was destroyed by the Great Okechobee Hurricane in 1928, after which they moved to rural Milligan in Okaloosa County, Florida. Cotton served in the Pacific Theater in World War II, most notably fighting in the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the liberation of the Philippines, for which he earned a Bronze Star.

Education[edit]

Upon returning from the war, Cotton attended Yale University to study political science[1], graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1948. His undergraduate thesis was titled "Demographic Transitions and Racial Dialectic", and was completed under the supervision of professor Hugh L. George. He then studied law at the University of Alabama, completing his Juris Doctor in 1951. In 1956 he obtained his Ph.D. in ethnography and anthropology from the University of Florida, on the subject of the "Ascendance of the Multiethnic Civilizations", under the supervision of renowned anthropology professor J. Stuart Goddard.

Political career[edit]

In 1952 Cotton sought election to the Florida House of Representatives when 10-term incumbent Donald F. Bradley retired. Given that at the time Florida was still a one-party Democratic state, the Democratic primary was the real election. Cotton won a three-way Democratic primary, and then defeated his Republican challenger Marty Thompson in the general election. He ran unopposed for three more terms. In the House, Cotton was a New-Deal liberal Democrat on economic issues, and markedly liberal for his time on racial issues, quietly supporting racial integration and civil rights for African-Americans.

In 1960, Cotton decided to run for the 2nd district of the Florida Senate, as the incumbent retired again. This time, the Cotton soundly defeated his primary challengers, and once again soundly defeated the Republican in the general. However, in 1964, Cotton had to beat back the first serious Republican challenge to Democratic dominance in this region, due to conservative blowback over the passage of civil rights legislation. As a result, Cotton became significantly more racially conservative in an attempt to appease conservative white voters who made up the majority of his district’s electorate. In 1965, expressing opposition to Florida's state-level implementation of the Voting Rights Act passed in Congress that year, Cotton declared: "This voting rights act, laid before us by the sanctimonious crusade of militant liberalism, will mark the death of American democracy if passed. I must, and I will fight for our state's right to run our own elections, against tyrannical judicial activists hell bent on destroying our way of life." Cotton won subsequent elections in 1968 and 1972.

In 1976, he decided to retire and prepare for a future run to the United States House of Representatives. Once conservative white voters accepted that they could no longer resist the civil rights movement, Cotton once again supported civil rights and full integration in an attempt to incorporate newly enfranchised African-American constituents into larger North Florida society.

Later career[edit]

During his time in the legislature, Cotton opened a law practice in Pensacola, in neighboring Escambia County. He made a name for serving African-American clients at a time when many Florida lawyers would not. After his political and legal life, Cotton founded and presides over the National Institute for the Preservation of United States History to conserve and protect older American cultural artifacts. He also serves on the board of the Council for Economic Freedom and Individual Liberty, a conservative-libertarian economic think tank directed by longtime friend George McHugh.

Personal life[edit]

Cotton met and married Jane Scarlett in 1952. They have five children, William Cotton V (born 1956), Lucy Cotton (born 1958), Edmund Cotton (born 1961), Susan Cotton (born 1963), and Virginia Cotton (born 1968). William and Jane Cotton still reside in Milligan, Florida.

Electoral history[2][edit]

Florida House of Representatives District 2 Democratic primary results, 1952:
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic William C. Cotton 14,113 56.14
Democratic Carter Legree 7,335 29.18
Democratic Zachary Calhoun 3,691 14.68
Total votes 25,139 100.0
Florida House of Representatives District 2 general election, 1952:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton 46,155 87.24% +3.40%
Republican Marty Thompson 6,751 12.76% -3.40%
Margin of victory 39,404 74.48% +10.60%
Total votes 52,906 100.0% N/A
Democratic hold
Florida House of Representatives District 2 Democratic primary, 1954:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton (incumbent) 100.0 +43.86
Florida House of Representatives District 2 general election, 1954:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton (incumbent) 100.0% +12.76%
Total votes 100.0% N/A
Democratic hold
Florida House of Representatives District 2 Democratic primary, 1956:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton (incumbent) 100.0 +0.0
Florida House of Representatives District 2 general election, 1956:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton (incumbent) 100.0% +0.0%
Total votes 100.0% N/A
Democratic hold
Florida House of Representatives District 2 Democratic primary, 1958:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton (incumbent) 100.0 +0.0
Florida House of Representatives District 2 general election, 1958:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton (incumbent) 100.0% +0.0%
Total votes 100.0% N/A
Democratic hold
Florida Senate District 2 Democratic primary results, 1960:
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic William C. Cotton 38,649 63.35
Democratic Zachary Calhoun 5,783 9.48
Democratic Walter Smith 5,632 9.23
Democratic Clarence Williams 4,406 7.22
Democratic Ted Pyne 3,465 5.68
Democratic Henry Lee 3,074 5.04
Total votes 61,009 100.0
Florida Senate District 2 general election, 1960:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton 104,083 79.21% +3.40%
Republican Arthur J. Jones 27,507 20.79% -3.40%
Margin of victory 76,576 51.42% +4.5%
Total votes 131,590 100.0% N/A
Democratic hold
Florida Senate District 2 Democratic primary, 1964:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton (incumbent) 100.0 +0.0
Florida Senate District 2 general election, 1964:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton (incumbent) 75,352 52.81% -26.4%
Republican Tom Rawlins 66,549 46.64% +25.85%
Independent Arthur J. Jones 784 0.55% +0.55%
Margin of victory 8,803 6.17% -45.25%
Total votes 142,686 100.0% +7.3%
Democratic hold
Florida Senate District 2 Democratic primary, 1968:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton (incumbent) 100.0 +0.0
Florida Senate District 2 general election, 1968:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton (incumbent) 79,029 56.81% +4.00%
Republican Adam Scarborough 60,082 43.19% -3.45%
Margin of victory 18,947 13.62% +7.45%
Total votes 139,111 100.0% -2.51%
Democratic hold
Florida Senate District 2 Democratic primary, 1972:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton (incumbent) 100.0 +0.0
Florida Senate District 2 general election, 1972:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William C. Cotton (incumbent) 81,327 57.41% +0.60%
Republican John Gosselin 60,233 42.59% -0.60%
Margin of victory 21,094 14.82% +1.20%
Total votes 141,660 100.0% +1.83%
Democratic hold

References[edit]

  1. 1948, Yale University Class of (1973). The Yale Class of 1948: Twenty-fifth Anniversary Yearbook, 1948-1973. Yale Class of 1948. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  2. "Election Results Archive - Division of Elections - Florida Department of State". dos.myflorida.com. Retrieved 2018-11-23.