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Claude Roy Kirk, Jr. was born in San Bernardino, California on January 7, 1926. He received a B.S. Degree from Emory University in 1945, and a law degree from the University of Alabama in 1949. In 1956, Kirk moved to Jacksonville, Florida when he became president of the American Heritage Life Insurance Company. As the Republican nominee in 1964, he unsuccessfully ran for the United States Senate. In 1966 he defeated Democrat Robert King High for the governorship, becoming the first Republican governor of Florida since Reconstruction. Kirk's administration was surrounded by controversy as the Democratic cabinet and the legislators opposed many of his proposals. He began his term by hiring a private agency, the Wackenhut Corporation, to investigate organized crime in Florida. In 1968, he refused to submit to a statewide teacher walkout and the legislature was forced to negotiate a settlement. In 1970, he opposed a court ordered forced busing program for school integration in Manatee County schools. Kirk achieved his greatest success in the area of conservation by creating the Water Pollution Control Commission, organizing a statewide wilderness system, and halting the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. Also during his term, the 1885 Florida Constitution was revised and many state agencies were reorganized. Kirk appointed Ray Osborne to the reinstated Lieutenant Governor's office.
Kirk was defeated by Democrat Reubin O'D. Askew for the governorship in 1970. After his term, he retired to private business in Palm Beach. He unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat in seeking the nomination for Governor in 1978 and in 1988 for United States Senate.
Official correspondence of Claude R. Kirk, Jr., thirty-sixth governor, from 1967-1971. The records reflect the official, constitutional, and political duties of the Office of the Governor. The series consists mainly of incoming and outgoing correspondence filed by general subject area, agency or organizational name, or county name. Kirk's first year in office, 1967, is represented well; however, there are large gaps in the series from 1968-1970. Since the Executive Branch was reorganized during Kirk's term, name changes occurred for many state agencies. Materials for those agencies that have undergone name changes are sometimes found under both terms.