|1855 Map of Tampa (TBHC Collection)|
|John T. Lesley (TBHC Collection)|
Though involved with Tampa’s resurgence in the 1880s, John T. Lesley is perhaps best-known for his political actions during the initial post-war period. In his return to civilian life, he played an instrumental role in how Tampa received the concept of Reconstruction.
Florida’s Reconstruction legislature passed a law in 1869 calling for the reorganization of municipal governments. Lesley and other former Confederates felt that this would lead to Republican and African American control of city government. In an effort to eliminate that threat, Lesley ran for mayor on the platform that if was elected he would abolish Tampa’s city government. He won in a landslide and, true to his word, he saw that the city’s charter lapsed, therefore ensuring that it would not fall into the hands of Carpetbaggers (Northerners) and Scalawags (Southerners aiding the Carpetbaggers). Tampa would not become a city again until July 1887.
Saunders Foundation Curator of History
Tampa Bay History Center