Cary Augustus Hardee

Governor Cary Augustus Hardee

By Spessard Stone

Governor Cary A. Hardee, for whom Hardee County was named, was a teacher, attorney, banker, and Florida's twenty-third governor since statehood.

Cary Augustus Hardee was born on a farm near Perry in Taylor County, Florida on November 13, 1876. He was the fourth of ten children of James B. and Amanda Katherine (Johnson) Hardee, both natives of Quitman, Georgia. James B. was a son of Thomas E. Hardee and, probably, Grace Ann Hardee, with whom he was enumerated in household # 373 in the 1850 census of Lowndes County, Georgia. As a young man, James B. Hardee had moved to Taylor County, Fla. During the Civil War, he enlisted in 1863 in Company B of the First Special Brigade, a Florida regiment of infantry, and served two years. After the war, James was a farmer in Taylor County and served for many years as county tax collector.

Cary A. Hardee was educated in the public schools of Taylor County. While teaching in the rural schools, he independently studied law with books borrowed from his brother C. J. Hardee. When only twenty-two years old, he was admitted to the bar and began to practice law in Live Oak in Suwannee County. Continuing as an attorney until 1914, he became one of the state's leading members of the bar. From 1905 to 1913 he was State's Attorney for the Third Judicial District.

Early in his career, he became involved in banking. In 1902 he was one of the organizers of the First National Bank of Live Oak and in 1907 was named its president. He was also president of the Branford State Bank of Branford and was an organizer of the Mayo State Bank at Mayo.

A Democrat, Cary was elected to represent Suwannee County in the Florida House of Representatives and served in the sessions of 1915 and 1917. He was chosen as Speaker, both in 1915 and 1917. During World War I, he was chairman of the Liberty Loan committee in Suwannee County during all five campaigns for the sale of government bonds Liberty Loan committee.

In 1920, Cary won the Democratic nomination for Governor of Florida when he defeated two opponents in the Democratic primary. In November 1920, he received 77.9% of the votes cast to easily triumph over three rivals in the general election. Governor Cary A. Hardee served from January 4, 1921 to January 6, 1925. His administration's main achievements were: (1) the 1923 enactment of a law to compel cattle owners to dip their livestock in an insecticide solution to eradicate cattle ticks; (2) the ending of the convict lease system in 1923; (3) the authorization for school districts to levy up to ten mills for school purposes; (4) the constitutional amendment prohibiting state income and inheritance taxes; (5) the constitutional amendment reapportioning the state legislature; (6) the creation of nine new counties, including Hardee County.

The movement to divide DeSoto County received the endorsements of the majority of its citizens when Frank M. Cooper and Dr. E. J. Etheridge, respectively, were elected state senator and state representative to represent DeSoto County in June 1920. Both candidates favored county division. On April 23, 1921 Hardee County was officially established.

Jean Plowden (1906-1985) in Chapter IX of his History of Hardee County related of the creation of Hardee County:

"On Wednesday, April 20th [1921], at one clock in the afternoon, the news was flashed over the wires from Tallahassee thus: 'Allies have captured central powers seventy-one to nothing,' which meant that the house had voted 71 to 0 for the division of DeSoto County into five parts, forming the counties of Hardee, DeSoto, Charlotte, Highlands and Glades.

"The news was received with an outburst of acclaim throughout Wauchula and this section generally. Church and school bells rang, whistles blew and auto horns blasted out their noisy welcome to the new counties.

"It is interesting to note here that this country was named in honor of Governor Cary A. Hardee. The divisionists had first proposed to call this county Semimole, but this idea was abandoned when the name Seminole was given to that section just north of Orlando, which was formed into Seminole county in April, 1913. Sanford was chosen as the county seat. Later it was suggested that this county be called Cherokee. Other suggested names were Goolsby county, Wauchula county, etc., but when the act was finally introduced, it was decided that it should be named in honor of the governor. Thus the section around Wauchula became Hardee county."

In Chapter X11 of his history, Plowden noted:

"One of the biggest events immediately after county division was the meeting of the Florida State Swine Growers Association, held in Wauchula on Wednesday and Thursday, July 20 and 21, 1921. Thousands of visitors from all over the state attended, including Governor Cary A. Hardee, after whom the new county had been named.

"Governor Hardee spoke at the meeting on Thursday. Other events included fish fry, barbecue dinner, speaking and a big hog sale which attracted many buyers and saw some fine stock change hands."

In 1932, Governor Hardee presented himself again as a candidate for governor. In the first Democratic primary, he placed third in a field of eight candidates. Governor Hardee, thereafter, returned to his banking interests.

Cary was a member of the Baptist Church in Live Oak, in which he served for many years as a deacon. Fraternally, he had been affiliated with the Royal Arch Chapter and Knight Templar Commandery of the Masonic Order at Live Oak, Morocco Temple of the Shrine at Jacksonville, Knights of Pythias of Live Oak, and Elks. Fishing was his favorite outdoor recreation.

Governor Cary Augustus Hardee died November 21, 1957 at Live Oak. At Madison on February 7, 1900, he had married Maude Vann Randell, daughter of Theodore and Moseley (Harriman) Randell. She was born February 1, 1878 and died October 13, 1953. They are buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Madison County, Florida.

They had the following children:
1. Mosely Parramore Hardee, born Dec. 3, 1900; died Jan. 1986, Live Oak, Fla.; married Louis J. Day.
2. Theo Hineley Hardee, born April 10, 1904; died Nov. 13, 1904.
3. Cary Augustus Hardee, born Sept. 21, 1905; died Nov. 18, 1906.

Governor Cary A. Hardee


Maude's maiden name is spelled variously both as Randle and Randell. Her name is spelled Maude Randell Hardee in Oak Ridge Cemetery. SSDI lists the given name of the daughter as Mosley. Mary Virginia Day was born Nov. 4, 1920. Cary Hardee Day was born May 9, 1924; died Oct. 15, 1993.

References: Harry Gardner Cutler, History of Florida, Volume 11, page 3, 1923; Allen Morris, The Florida Handbook 1977-1978; Charlton Tebeau, A History of Florida, 1971; Jean Plowden, History of Hardee County, 1929.

This article is adapted from a feature in The Herald-Advocate of May 5, 1988.

Jan. 31, 2001, Nov. 11, 2007