Herman Goldner

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Herman Wilson Goldner

Mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida
In office
Preceded by Edward Brantley
Succeeded by Don Jones
In office
Preceded by Don Spicer
Succeeded by Randolph Wedding

Born November 12, 1916
Detroit, Michigan, USA

Reared in Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Died September 9, 2010 (aged 93)
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Political party Republican-turned-Democrat (c. 1972)
Spouse(s) Winifred Munyan Goldner (married 1939-1991, her death)
Children Brian Early Goldner (deceased)

Michael H. Goldner
Michael M. and Ethel Goldner

Residence St. Petersburg, Florida (1947-1991)

Panama City, Panama (1991-1999)
Virginia Beach, Virginia (1999-2010)

Alma mater Miami University of Ohio

Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Harvard University

Occupation Attorney
Religion Jewish; converted to Episcopalian

Military Service
Service/branch United States Navy
Battles/wars World War II

Herman Wilson Goldner (November 12, 1916 – September 9, 2010) was the Republican mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, a nominally nonpartisan position. His four two-year terms extended from 1961 to 1967 and 1971 to 1973, during which he was called St. Petersburg's "pre-eminent mayor." A man of many contrasts and surprises, he switched from the Republican to Democrat about 1972, following the national party's support of the civil rights agenda.


The son of Michael M. Goldner (1889-1952) and Ethel Goldner (1889-1978), Goldner was born in Detroit, Michigan, and was reared in Cleveland Heights in Cuyahoga County in northern Ohio. As a youth, he built a box on which he stood to give impassioned speeches. He often organized other boys to perform chores to which he had been assigned. He had an IQ of nearly 160 but was a "B" pupil because of absenteeism. Bored with classwork, he often skipped school to go to the opera or to visit museums.[1] In 1939, he graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.[2] As a college student, he sold Bibles and shoveled coal to help pay his expenses.

After a three-week courtship in 1939, he married the former Winifred Munyan (1918-1991), who bore him two sons, Brian Early Goldner (1943-1983) and Michael H. Goldner (born c. 1946). Jewish by birth, Goldner converted to his wife' Episcopalian denomination.[3]

In 1942, he received his legal degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, Ohio. He served for four years in the United States Navy during World War II. Thereafter, he received a Master of Business Administration, before that degree became so popular, from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[3]

Legal and political life

Goldner, Winifred, and their sons moved to St. Petersburg in 1947[3] or 1949.[1] He established a law practice in the Hall Building with William C. Cramer, a native of Denver, Colorado, who had grown up in St. Petersburg with his birth family. A Republican, Goldner urged Cramer, then a Democrat, to switch parties. Until this period, Florida had been essentially a one-party, Democratic state for decades since the disenfranchising of most blacks at the turn of the century. Most whites were traditionally Democratic Party members.

Cramer joined Goldner in the GOP in 1949; the next year he was elected as a state representative.. In 1954, he was narrowly elected to Florida's 1st congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives.[4][5]

Cramer was a conservative. Goldner, then a Moderate Republican, managed the 1960 Republican campaign in Pinellas County. In 1961, he was elected mayor by a wide margin. When told that his African-American supporters could not attend his inaugural ball because St. Petersburg at the time was a legally segregated city, Goldner instead funded a private celebration to which all were invited. Mayor Goldner founded the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and sought to consolidate various municipalities and unincorporated areas in south Pinellas County.[3] In 1965, while running for his third term, Mayor Goldner was hospitalized with a slipped disc for much of the campaign, and his victory by 4 percentage points depended on black support.[1]

In 1966, Nation's Business magazine published Mayor Goldner's study, "How To Modernize America's Cities." As he left office, the Chamber of Commerce honored him as St. Petersburg's "pre-eminent mayor." Bruce Marger, another law partner of Goldner's, called him "visionary, so exceptional in planning" for such projects as the renovation of the St. Petersburg Pier, construction of the Bayfront Center, and in his persistent support for civil rights, for which he was "caring and balanced."[1]

However, Goldner in 1966 angered a black militant, Omali Yeshitela (born Joseph Waller in 1941), who in a letter questioned the placement of a mural at City Hall which depicted black musicians serenading white partygoers. Goldner replied, "I find nothing offensive in the portrayal of strolling troubadours and picnickers at Pass-a-Grille Beach. ... I think you know that I, personally, am not a racist. I think ... that all of our minority groups must mature to the point where self-consciousness is not a motivating factor for complaints."[3]Goldner's reaction was somewhat like of then Governor Spiro Agnew of Maryland, who lectured black activists over urban rioting which erupted durnng the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.</ref> Waller soon spent more than two years in prison after he tore down the mural.[3]

1968 U.S. Senate primary race

In 1968, Goldner made a quixotic run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate for the seat being vacated by the Democrat George Smathers, who was initially elected in 1950. His intraparty opponent, Edward Gurney, also a transplanted northerner, had far greater financial resources for the race, $7 million as opposed to Goldner's $300,000,[3] as well as six years experience as a member of the United States House. As a Republican, Goldner had supported Lyndon B. Johnson for president over Barry Goldwater in 1964.[6] He also endorsed Hubert Humphrey in the forthcoming campaign against Richard M. Nixon and George Wallace, a move which hurt Goldner with Republican voters in a closed primary. Goldner called for an immediate withdrawal by air, sea, or land of all American forces stationed in the since disbanded South Vietnam. On the campaign trail, Goldner told supporters that local government officials he had encountered had "no desire to face inevitable changes in American society."[3]

Gurney in the general election defeated by a comfortable margin former Governor Leroy Collins, the Democratic nominee to succeed Smathers, but Gurney was senator only for a single term. In 1970, Nixon was a key supporter of William Cramer's own Senate bid against Lawton Chiles for the seat vacated by another veteran Democrat Spessard Holland. Cramer, who turned aside a fratricidal primary against former federal Judge George Harrold Carswell (1919-1992), President Nixon's unsuccessful 1970 nominee for the United States Supreme Court, who carried the backing of Senator Ed Gurney and the embattled Governor Claude Roy Kirk, Jr. (1926-2011).

found himself caught in the cross hairs with his former law partner and fellow Republican Goldner on one hand and President Nixon who urged Cramer to make the race on the other. "Even if he switched parties, I still have a lot of respect for him," Cramer said years later of his friend Goldner.[1] Goldner won his fourth and final term as mayor in 1971, during which he continued to oppose Nixon's domestic and Vietnam War policies. "I have broken a five-generation tradition. I am now a Democrat," announced Goldner, as he left the Republican Party of his ancestors.[1]In 1978, Goldner fared poorly in his last political race, a bid for a seat on the Pinellas County Commission.[1]

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council still honors a community leader annually with its Herman Goldner Award for Regional Leadership. Goldner was a long-term advocate for regional cooperation. [3]

Personal life

Goldner befriended the broadcast journalist Jule B. McGee (born c. 1937), then of WLCY. the ABC affiliate in Tampa, who had a legal dispute with the station that was settled when Goldner intervened on McGee's behalf. WLCY forbade employees who left the station from working at another affiliate in the Tampa television market for a year afterward. McGee left WLCY to become news director, an off-air position, at WTVT. When WLCY brought McGee to court, McGee went to Goldner, who told him the WLCY requirement was not legally binding. A grateful McGee described Goldner as "the most wonderful, liberal Republican I ever met ... he was like a father to me."[7]

Goldner was rarely seen for long without his trademark smoking pipe. When lesions developed in his mouth, he continued to use the pipe but stopped lighting the tobacco.[3] At the time he was mayor, Goldner bore a resemblance to the 21st-century comedian and U.S. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.

After the death in 1991 of his wife, Goldner, who by then was having lapses of memory, moved to Panama City in Latin America to live near his surviving son, Michael. In 1999, he followed Michael to Virginia Beach, Virginia. There Goldner died in 2010. His funeral was held at Our Savior Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg.[3] His parents, Michael M. Goldner (1889-1952) and Ethel Goldner (1889-1978) and older son, Brian Early Goldner (1943-1983), are interred at Royal Palm Cemetery in St. Petersburg, but news articles at the time of Goldner's death do not reveal the location of his remains.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Scott Taylor Hartzell (August 21, 2002). Herman Goldner dubbed a 'pre-eminent mayor'. The St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved on June 1, 2014.
  2. Obituaries: Winter 2011 Miamian. miamialum.org. Retrieved on June 1, 2014.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Andrew Meacham (September 15, 2010). Mayor packed ideas, pipe tobacco in rich public life. The Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved on June 1, 2014.
  4. Billy Hathorn, "Cramer v. Kirk: The Florida Republican Schism of 1970", Florida Historical Quarterly (April 1990), Vol. 68, No. 4, p. 404
  5. Florida's 1st congressional district, represented in 2016 by Republican Jeff Miller, now covers the Florida Panhandle as far west as the Alabama state line.
  6. "Cramer v. Kirk: The Florida Republican Schism of 1970", p. 410.
  7. Jule McGee Story Continued.... big13.net. Retrieved on June 1, 2014.

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