August 2018

Earlier this month, the Florida Authors & Publishers Association (FAPA) awarded its prestigious annual President’s Book Awards for the best books of 2017 and the first half of 2018 submitted nationally by authors and publishers. Under the adult non-fiction category, “Florida Made: The 25 Most Important Figures Who Shaped the State” was one of the forty-five books that was evaluated and ultimately awarded the 2018 President’s Book Award.

Published by Arcadia Publishing and The History Press,the book was co-written by former U.S. Sen. George S. LeMieux and journalist Laura E. Mize, a Palm Beach Atlantic alumna. In their book, LeMieux and Mize set out to profile and rank—according to impact—the twenty-five trailbrazers who have changed the state forever.

Over the course of Florida’s history, countless books have been written about the Sunshine State that in many ways is both the oldest and newest of the megastates. Once a swampland, it is now the country’s top destination for tourism, business, agriculture and innovation. Still, not too many people know about the many wonders to be discovered in this picturesque peninsula, or the cast of characters who’s helped develop the plot of this remarkable story.

The initial idea for this book was Senator LeMieux's, stemming from the time he spent traveling the state as a U.S. senator. He realized how few Floridians were born here and know the great stories of Florida's fascinating past. “I am thankful to him and to President William M.B. Fleming, Jr. for inviting me to become involved in this project,” said Mize, a proud Sailfish who has been writing practically all her life, and feels honored to receive an award from other authors. “Their [Fleming and LeMieux’s] excitement about it has been infectious, and I have embraced the mission of uncovering and sharing the tales of Florida's unlikely development into a national and global leader.”

“Florida Made” captures the ideas and actions of a group of people who impacted the Sunshine State—the first place in our nation that Europeans colonized. From that beginning more than 500 years ago to the state's rapid population growth in the past 100 years, Florida has been absolutely transformed. “Once a disease and insect infested swampland, we are now the third most populous state in the nation and a global destination,” explained Mize. “The people who helped bring that about have done incredible things, and some of them have been all but lost to history. We wanted to tell those stories, for the benefit of everyone who loves Florida and spending time here.”

As any history writer would attest, interesting things may be revealed during a book’s research process. And according to Mize, there were numerous things she and LeMieux learned in writing this book that surprised them. Two examples are the severity of Florida's hellacious mosquito problem just 120 years ago; and the fact that the father of air conditioning and mechanical refrigeration could not sell people on the benefits of his invention (created in Florida). He died destitute.

More than anything, Mize hopes that “Florida Made” will also educate people about the men and women who have built modern Florida, and will provide inspiration for new generations of leaders.

“The Sunshine State has a promising future ahead of us, but we also face challenges,” she said. “Our state needs determined, innovative, wise and compassionate people to guide us forward. Some of tomorrow's heroes will be overlooked—people with unexpected, perhaps even initially unwelcome, ideas... much like people featured in our book.”

It is the authors’ ultimate wish that “Florida Made” will also help people to think “big picture” and embrace positive change, inciting friendly discussion and debate about the heroes of our past, their impacts and the ups and downs of Florida's history.

The book is available for purchase online and in select U.S. bookstores for $21.99. Sale proceeds will benefit the LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University's main campus in West Palm Beach.

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