After the death of Reinette Long Hunt, her distant cousins John W. Ford and Josephine Alger took ownership of The Grove. Ford and Alger briefly continued to host travelers at the Grove Hotel in the early 1940s. In 1942, Ford and Alger offered The Grove up for sale and numerous parties showed an interest in the property. All other offers ceased when LeRoy Collins and Mary Call Darby Collins expressed their desire to purchase The Grove.
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Mary Call Darby Collins was a direct descendant of Richard Keith Call. Although born in New York City, she spent much of her childhood at The Grove as well as at another family home in Tallahassee owned by the Brevard family.
The son of a grocer, Thomas LeRoy Collins was born in Tallahassee in 1909. He married Mary Call Darby in 1932. Collins pursued political office as a young man and was elected to the Florida House of Representatives at age 25. He served in the Florida House (1934-40) and Senate (1940-42 and 1946-54) before becoming Florida's 33rd governor (1955-61).
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From left to right: Mary Call Darby Collins, Mary Call, LeRoy Collins holding Sarah Darby, Jane, and LeRoy Jr.
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From left to right: Jane, Sarah Darby, Mary Call, and Mary Call Darby Collins.
The Collins family arrived at The Grove in November 1942 and immediately began restoring the mansion and grounds. One of the first tasks undertaken by the family was painting over a sign near the road advertising hotel accommodations.
Other necessary work included the removal of partitions built by Reinette for the Grove Hotel. The bathrooms added to the east side of the home were also removed.
In the early 1950s, the family added a large glass-enclosed "Florida Room" on the north side of the building and also built an outdoor brick patio. The bricks for the patio were salvaged from Monroe Street, directly east of The Grove, when the road transitioned to an asphalt bed.
The Grove again became the center of political life in Tallahassee during the Collins era.
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The patio in the foreground was built by the Collins family using bricks reclaimed from Monroe Street.
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The staircase in the main hallway of The Grove was modeled after the architecture of Andrew Jackson's Tennessee home, The Hermitage.
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The Collins family hosted numerous parties and social events at their home. During Gov. Collins' inauguration party over 80 dignitaries, including several foreign ambassadors, attended a dinner and celebration at the mansion.
Gov. and Mrs. Collins also entertained a delegation from the Seminole Tribe of Florida shortly before they achieved federal recognition in 1957.
In addition to purchasing the house and about 10 acres of land, the Collins family unknowingly inherited a tenant. Robert Aldridge lived at The Grove with Reinette Long Hunt, doing odd jobs.
LeRoy Collins recalled discovering Aldridge living behind a wall in the basement, apparently engaged in "wine and home brew production." After some discussion, Aldridge agreed to move to a cottage on the property but remained a fixture at The Grove during the Collins' tenure.
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LeRoy Collins lived sporadically at The Grove from 1942 through the late 1960s. Military service took LeRoy away from his family in Tallahassee to California during the latter stages of World War II.
When LeRoy was elected governor of Florida in 1955, the Collins family moved the short distance—perhaps 150 yards—from The Grove into the Governor's Mansion.
Shortly thereafter, the Governor's Mansion was slated to be demolished and rebuilt. The Collins family again made the short move back into The Grove, living there temporarily during construction of the new Mansion.
After the new Governor's Mansion was completed in 1957, the Collins family moved once again from The Grove into the executive home.
In 1960, as his time as governor neared an end, LeRoy Collins became head of the Democratic National Convention, taking him temporarily to Los Angeles.
During Gov. Collins' periodic absences between 1959 and 1963, The Grove opened to the public as a museum. James L. Cogar, former curator of colonial Williamsburg, leased the home from the Collins family. Cogar had previously worked on the restoration of The Grove in the 1940s after LeRoy and Mary purchased the home. Cogar charged admission and guided tours while the family were in residence.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Collins Director of the Community Relations Service - an agency created by the Civil Rights Act. Collins relocated to Washington, D.C. following his appointment. When he lost his bid for the U.S. Senate in 1968, he returned to The Grove permanently.
Mrs. Collins devoted herself to preserving and restoring the family home. She contributed to the restoration efforts at George Washington's Mount Vernon home and helped design and furnish the new Florida Governor's Mansion, lending expertise gained through experience at The Grove.
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Looking south from the driveway towards the old Governor's Mansion.
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Collins gradually lost support from segregationist politicians and voters, leading to his defeat in his 1968 bid for the U.S. Senate.
As governor of Florida, Collins clashed with members of the Florida legislature who wanted to stop integration following the historic Brown v. Topeka, Kansas Board of Education ruling in 1954.
Governor Collins wrote that efforts by the legislature to imped the court's ruling constituted an "evil thing, whipped up by the demagogues and carried on the hot and erratic winds of passion, prejudice, and hysteria." (See Interposition Resolution in Response to Brown v. Board of Education, 1957.)
[INSERT BELOW image pt00607: caption: Gov. Collins shakes hands with President Johnson after he signed into law the Civil Rights Act (1964)]
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After his career in politics ended, Gov. Collins returned to practicing law in Tallahassee. He and Mrs. Collins lived at The Grove and at their vacation home on Dog Island, a barrier island off the coast of the Florida Panhandle.
Gov. Collins devoted considerable time to writing and produced Forerunners Courageous (1971), a collection of historical essays on Florida history.
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Front row, left to right: John Begeman, Christopher Begeman, and Douglas Begeman. Back row, left to right: Dr. Frederick Begeman, H. Palmer Proctor Jr., Edward Sisson Collins, LeRoy Collins III, LeRoy Collins Proctor, LeRoy Collins Jr., H. Palmer Proctor, and John K. Aurell.