J. Thomas Watson

John Thomas Watson (November 20, 1885 – October 24, 1954) was an American lawyer and politician who served as the 27th Attorney General of Florida from 1941 to 1949.[1]

J. Thomas Watson
J. Thomas Watson.jpg
27th Florida Attorney General
In office
January 7, 1941 – January 4, 1949
GovernorSpessard Holland
Millard Caldwell
Preceded byGeorge Couper Gibbs
Succeeded byRichard Ervin
Personal details
Born(1885-11-20)November 20, 1885
Danville, Virginia
DiedOctober 24, 1954(1954-10-24) (aged 68)
Tampa, Florida
Political partyDemocratic (before 1954)
Republican (after 1954)
Mary Wicks Boisseau
(m. 1915)
EducationWashington and Lee University (LLB)

Early life and educationEdit

Watson was born in Danville, Virginia, on November 2, 1885. In 1903, he became superintendent of the Havana-American Cigar Company in Tampa, Florida. He served in this position until 1908, when he returned to Virginia to attend Washington and Lee University, where he received his Bachelor of Laws in 1911. Upon graduation, Watson was admitted to the Virginia Bar and the Florida Bar.

Political careerEdit

Watson served as a municipal judge in Tampa from 1913 until 1915. In 1931, he represented part of Hillsborough County in the Florida House of Representatives.[2] In 1932, he ran for Governor of Florida. Facing a tough competition, including former Governors John W. Martin and Cary A. Hardee, Watson finished last in the Democratic primary out of eight candidates, receiving just 1.42% of the vote.[3]

In 1935 Watson was appointed as a United States Special Attorney by the U.S. Department of Justice, a position he served in until 1938.

Watson won election in 1940 to become the 27th Attorney General of Florida. As Attorney General, Watson was very strict in his opposition to labor unions. Watson instituted legal action in order to outlaw closed shops, believing they violated public policy. This was a result of a controversial closed shop agreement between the Tampa Shipbuilding Corporation and the American Federation of Labor. Watson also supported the Taft–Hartley Act and instituted right-to-work laws.[4] Watson served as Florida Attorney General until 1948.

In 1948, Watson became a practicing attorney in Tampa. He ran again for governor in 1948, finishing fifth out of nine in the Democratic primary, receiving 9% of the vote.[5] He then ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, running in District 1, which included Hillsborough County. Watson lost in the Democratic primary runoff, losing 59% to 41% to State Attorney Chester B. McMullen.[6]

In 1954, Watson changed his party affiliation to Republican in order to run for a special election following the death of Governor Dan McCarty. Watson defeated Charles E. Compton in the Republican primary, and faced State Senator LeRoy Collins, a staunch segregationist, in the general election.[7] However, Watson died just two weeks before the election. Despite his death, he still received 20% of the vote.[8]


  1. ^ "Florida Attorney General - Florida Attorneys General (1845 - )". myfloridalegal.com. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  2. ^ Florida, State Library and Archives of. "Portraits of members of the Florida legislature". Florida Memory. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  3. ^ "Our Campaigns - FL Governor - D Primary Race - Jun 07, 1932". www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  4. ^ Marshall, F. Ray (1967). Labor in the South. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674507005.
  5. ^ "Our Campaigns - FL Governor - D Primary Race - May 04, 1948". www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  6. ^ "Our Campaigns - FL District 1 - D Runoff Race - May 23, 1950". www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  7. ^ "Our Campaigns - FL Governor - Special R Primary Race - May 04, 1954". www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  8. ^ "Our Campaigns - FL Governor - Special Election Race - Nov 02, 1954". www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Harry S. Swan
Republican nominee for Governor of Florida
Succeeded by
William A. Washburne Jr.
Legal offices
Preceded by Florida Attorney General
Succeeded by