May 18, 2021

Celebrating 50 Years

Florida's Turning Points Since 1958

Pivotal events over the past 50 years that have helped to shape Florida today.

1963: The Legislature creates Florida’s first land-acquisition program, which evolves into Florida Forever, the most successful land-conservation purchase program in the nation. The state has bought some 6 million acres; with federal and local conservation lands, almost 10 million acres in Florida are managed for natural resource protection or recreation.

Mickey mouse hat1965: The Orlando Sentinel identifies Walt Disney Co. as the buyer of tracts near the junction of I-4 and Florida’s Turnpike. Disney assembles a 43-square-mile parcel for less than $200 an acre and opens Walt Disney World in 1971. Universal, SeaWorld and myriad other tourism-related businesses follow, transforming the economies of both the central Florida region and the state.

1965: A cruise ship called the Yarmouth Castle burns in the Bahamas, killing about 100. The disaster led to new regulations governing cruises that create a foundation for the industry to grow. In 1972, Ted Arison founds Carnival Cruises with a converted ocean liner. Carnival becomes the largest corporation in the cruise industry, which has reshaped Florida seaports and tourism in the state.

1966: The Miami Dolphins, the state’s oldest professional sports franchise, begin play in the American Football League. The Dolphins are followed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL, 1976); Miami Heat (NBA, 1987); Orlando Magic (NBA, 1989); Florida Panthers (NHL, 1993); Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL, 1992); Florida Marlins (MLB, 1993); Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL, 1995); and Tampa Bay Rays (MLB, 1998).

1967: Claude Kirk becomes the first Republican governor in Florida in 90 years. Kirk’s election presages the emergence of the Republican Party as a dominant force in Florida politics.

1968: Florida’s retirement industry begins to reach critical mass with the construction of the first of four Century Village developments in southeast Florida. Meanwhile, development begins in north central Florida at The Villages, which is created using the community development district model that is basis for more than 200 other communities in Florida.


1970: Condos begin emerging as a housing option.

Everglades [Photo: SWFMD]
1970: President Richard Nixon halts construction of the Miami Jetport, which began in 1968. The giant airport was to be built in the Big Cypress swamp. In part due to efforts by then-U.S. Sen. Lawton Chiles, Nixon proposes legislation that created the Big Cypress National Freshwater Preserve in 1971. The moves firmly establish the Everglades as a subject of environmental conservation, leading to the 2000 law authorizing the $7.8-billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program.

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