1940: Jacksonville becomes a Navy city

Two Navy WAVES cleaning an SNJ training plane at NAS Jacksonville during World War II.

Chief Petty Officer Armando Aman in the kitchen at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in 1986.

In the years preceding the United States’ entry into World War II, the country built up its military resources in strategic parts of the country. In 1940, this led to the creation of one of the biggest naval air bases on the outskirts of Jacksonville. Naval Air Station Jacksonville was followed in 1942 by a major sea base at the mouth of the St. Johns River, Naval Station Mayport, as well as several more installations around the region. During the war, the bases were hubs for the Navy’s women’s auxiliary, the WAVES, and the city’s shipyards and factories went to work building and supplying Navy vessels. By the end of the war in 1945, Jacksonville had emerged as one of the country’s biggest military hubs.

This U.S. Navy presence has shaped Jacksonville’s growth and identity ever since. NAS Jacksonville was the birthplace of the Blue Angels, the Navy’s famous demonstration squadron. The Navy has also transformed the city in other ways. During the 1940s, the U.S. Navy enlisted thousands of Filipinos, offering them a pathway to American citizenship. As one of the major Navy centers, Jacksonville saw a considerable influx of Filipino sailors and their families. Today, Jacksonville’s Filipino population numbers around 25,000, the largest Filipino community in Florida and one of the largest anywhere in the Southeast.

1968: Consolidation

Mayor Hans Tanzler and J.J. Daniel, chairman of the Local Government Study Commission and publisher of the Florida Times-Union and Jacksonville Journal bury a time capsule next to old City Hall on October 1, 1968, the day consolidation went into effect. (Courtesy of the Jacksonville Historical Society)

Like most North American cities, Jacksonville faced a transformative crisis in the 1950s and 60s. Mass suburbanization and white flight led thousands of families to move outside the city limits to new residential developments, leaving the city with a diminishing tax base at a time investment was badly needed in the old city neighborhoods. Ultimately, the Urban Core lost more than 100,000 people, half of its population. Local leaders headed by Mayor Hans Tanzler and supported by a wide array of citizens, both urban and suburban, Black and white, proposed a radical solution: consolidating the City of Jacksonville and Duval County governments into one. This would extend city resources to folks in the unincorporated county while providing a badly needed source of tax funding for Jaxsons in the Urban Core. In 1967, voters approved Consolidation by a margin of more than 60%, and it was implemented the following year.

Consolidation has changed Jacksonville in a variety of ways. Because of the vast size of Duval County, Jacksonville became the largest city by landmass in the contiguous United States, as well as the largest city in Florida by population. Bragging rights aside, it also saved the old city from insolvency in a more equitable, efficient and effective manner than the solutions followed in other cities like Orlando, Tampa and Miami. Though its benefits haven’t been capitalized on consistently, when used properly, Consolidation allows the city to tap the resources of a county nearly 1 million strong to bolster its Urban Core and distressed neighborhoods.

*Article by Bill Delaney and Ennis Davis, AICP and Bill Delaney. Contact Bill at wdelaney@moderncities.com and Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com.

Bill Delaney’s new book Secret Jacksonville, a Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure is out. Order a signed copy at thejaxsonmag.com/books.