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50 years later, tape revives speech

The booming, theatrical voice from a half century ago filled the room with ageless political promises:

The people's tax dollars will be spent prudently; new highways will be built at the lowest possible cost; Florida's government will be an active force in promoting prosperity.

The speaker: Gov. Fuller Warren, who died in 1973. The date: Jan. 4, 1949, Warren's inauguration as Florida's 30th governor.

Fuller's inaugural address came to life after 50 years on Monday, when state museum officials played a recently discovered recording that had been sealed in a brass time capsule. With help from local sound artists, the Museum of Florida History made the recording into a modern-day digital audio tape.

Sound wizards had made Fuller's North Florida drawl loud and clear, making that drizzly inauguration day of 1949 seem like today.

"He (Fuller) was known as a master speechmaker _ he had a real charisma about him," said historian Bob McNeil, who appeared at a news conference where parts of Fuller's 72-minute inaugural remarks were played.

The Fuller Warren tape is part of a state history museum exhibit, "First Families of Florida," that highlights Florida's governors and their families through the state's history.

A timeline with pictures of governors takes visitors back to 1821 when Andrew Jackson served as governor of the territories of east and west Florida. It continues until 1998, with a picture of Jeb Bush, who becomes Florida's 43rd governor today, and a special memorial to Gov. Lawton Chiles, who died suddenly last month.

Borrowing an idea from North Carolina, state museum officials wanted to bring to life both the public and personal sides of Florida's governors. "We have always shown everything in a political, government context, but never in a family context," said Jeana Brunson, curator of collections and research at the state history museum.

The exhibit includes photos of governors and their families, furniture they used and even clothing worn by governors, first ladies and their children.

There is a cotton infant dress worn by the daughter of Gov. William Dunn Moseley (1845-1849); A Gone With The Wind evening gown of cotton and satin worn by first lady Mary Holland (1941-1945); a wool morning suit worn by Gov. Millard Caldwell on his inauguration in 1945; the black wing-tip dress shoes worn by Gov. Bob Martinez on his inauguration in 1987; and several gowns worn by first ladies during inaugural balls.

A trademark plaid shirt worn by the folksy Gov. Chiles was donated by his family.

The museum already had about half of the materials on display and got the other half from helpful family members of governors, said Brunson. Dr. Patricia Clements, a member of the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, was instrumental in assembling the first ladies' inaugural gowns.

Fuller Warren's inaugural recordings were discovered during a remodeling of Florida's state library. Two librarians found a large cardboard shipping box addressed to Warren on a storage shelf. They contacted state museum officials, who opened the box and found a sealed brass time capsule marked "transcription" of the inaugural ceremonies of Warren. Inside were the recordings, which Warren had sent to the state library in 1953.

The brass container and the old 16-inch recordings are on display. Brunson said museum officials would like to set up a way to allow visitors to hear Warren's remarks.

Charles Walker, 76, heard Warren's remarks in real life in 1949, when he and his young family attended the inauguration. A former registrar at Florida State University, Walker came to hear Warren's voice again Monday, 50 years later.

He recalled Warren's dynamic personality and speaking skills.

"He was a man with flair," Walker said.