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LeRoy and Mary Call Darby Collins

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.

The Grove (1948)

The Grove (1948)

Image Number: SL819C

Mary Call Darby Collins on the front porch of The Grove (1956)

Mary Call Darby Collins (1956)

Image Number: C010207

LeRoy and Mary Call Darby Collins Purchase The Grove

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).

The Collins Family at The Grove (1953)

The Collins Family at The Grove (1953)

Image Number: RK0126

From left to right: Mary Call Darby Collins, Mary Call, LeRoy Collins holding Sarah Darby, Jane, and LeRoy Jr.

Mary Call Collins and her daughters at The Grove (between 1955 and 1961)

Mary Call Collins and her daughters at The Grove (between 1955 and 1961)

Image Number: GV035150

From left to right: Jane, Sarah Darby, Mary Call, and Mary Call Darby Collins.

Family Life at The Grove

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.

Rear view of The Grove showing the "Florida room" built by LeRoy and Mary Call Collins ca. 1952 (2011)

Rear view of The Grove showing the Florida Room (2011)

Image Number: DG00380

Interior view of the "Florida room" at The Grove (2011)

Interior view of the Florida Room (2011)

Image Number: DG00382

Side view of The Grove (1992)

Side view of The Grove, facing west (1992)

Image Number: DG00384

The patio in the foreground was built by the Collins family using bricks reclaimed from Monroe Street.

Governor LeRoy Collins helps his father, Marvin Sr., hold up their catch of black bass (1958)

Governor LeRoy Collins helps his father, Marvin Sr., hold up their catch of black bass (1958)

Image Number: C028220

Grove staff members at work in the kitchen (1956)

Grove staff in the kitchen (1956)

Image Number: RC20571

Main hallway and stairs at The Grove (1956)

Main hallway and stairs at The Grove (1956)

Image Number: RC20575

The staircase in the main hallway of The Grove was modeled after the architecture of Andrew Jackson's Tennessee home, The Hermitage.

Main hallway and stairs at The Grove (1956)

Family breakfast room in the basement of The Grove (1956)

Image Number: RC20576

The Grove as Social and Political Hub

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.

Young ladies in gowns welcome visitors to The Grove during the annual Tallahassee Trail tour of homes (1951)

Young ladies in gowns welcome visitors to The Grove during the annual "Tallahassee Trail" tour of homes (1951)

Image Number: C014592

The Collins family hosting a delegation from the Seminole Tribe at The Grove (1956)

The Collins family hosting a delegation from the Seminole Tribe at The Grove (1956)

Image Number: C022512

The Collinses pose for a family portrait on the staircase (1956)

The Collinses pose for a family portrait on the staircase (1956)

Image Number: SL4554A

Sara Darby Collins testing her new bicycle at The Grove (1957)

Sara Darby Collins testing her new bicycle at The Grove (1957)

Image Number: TD00215l

Gov. and Mrs. Collins on the front porch at The Grove (1961)

Gov. and Mrs. Collins on the front porch at The Grove (1961)

Image Number: TD01422C

Gov. and Mrs. Collins on the front porch at The Grove (1961)

LeRoy Collins Jr. visiting his sisters at The Grove (1956)

Image Number: PT00340

May Day King Bruce Weale and the men of the court on the steps of The Grove (1960)

May Day King Bruce Weale and the men of his court on the steps of The Grove (1960)

Image Number: PR15036

May Day Queen Kay Lamb and her court on the steps of The Grove (1960)

May Day Queen Kay Lamb and her court on the steps of The Grove (1960)

Image Number: PR15037

Mary Call Collins and her daughters hosting a delegation of Seminole Indians at The Grove (1956)

The Collins family hosting a delegation of Seminole Indians at The Grove (1956)

Image Number: C025695

LeRoy Collins' office in the basement of The Grove (2010)

LeRoy Collins' office in the basement of The Grove (2010)

Image Number: DG00381

Gov. and Mrs. Collins as Public Servants

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.

Governor LeRoy Collins and his family in front of The Grove (ca. 1956)

Gov. Collins and family in front of The Grove (ca. 1956)

Image Number: GV035145

LeRoy and Mary Call Collins at The Grove (1954)

Gov. and Mrs. Collins at The Grove (1954)

Image Number: RK0133

Looking south from the driveway towards the old Governor's Mansion.

The Grove (1964)

The Grove (1964)

Image Number: sl13246

LeRoy Collins and Civil Rights

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)]

The Grove (ca. 1970s)

The Grove (ca. 1970s)

Image Number: PC4302

Gov. and Mrs. Collins Retire to The Grove

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.

Former Florida Governor LeRoy Collins in front of his home The Grove (1985)

Gov. Collins in front of The Grove (1985)

Image Number: PT00625

Private burial service at The Grove cemetary for LeRoy Collins (1991)

Private burial service at the family cemetery for Gov. Collins (1991)

Image Number: PT00283

LeRoy Collins lying in state at The Grove (1991)

Gov. Collins lying in state at The Grove (1991)

Image Number: PT00284

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.