From a Coin Toss into Politics: The Life of a Senator

September 16, 2014 – March 22, 2015

The time-honored tradition of tossing a coin is used all over the world to make decisions or resolve arguments both large and small, from which team gets the ball to start the game to which family member gets the last piece of cake. Though there is no proven history of how this tradition got started, many believe coin flipping began in Roman times as a game known as navia aut caput, or ship or head, as some coins had a ship on one side and the head of the emperor on the other.

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Some coin tosses have influenced the course of history, such as in the case of Senator Richard B. Stone. When a new Florida Senate seat was created in Dade County in 1967, both Stone, Miami City Attorney at the time, and Maurice Ferre wanted to run. Political campaign consultant Stephen Ross tried unsuccessfully to convince one of them to bow out, so they flipped a coin to see who would run. The outcome solidified Stone’s entry into a 40-year career of public service.

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FROM A COIN TOSS INTO POLITICS: The Life of a Senator, is a colorful exhibit that features photographs, documents, official correspondence and artifacts illustrating the Senator Stone’s fascinating Florida story. From his early years on Miami Beach to the elegant ball gowns worn by his “First Lady” Marlene at the White House State dinners, the exhibit includes highlights of his service as Florida State Senator, Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and his prestigious Ambassadorships in Central America and Denmark.

Practically a native Floridian, Stone grew up living in the Blackstone Hotel, which was built by his father and grandfather, to accommodate Jewish tourists who were turned away from other hotels on Miami Beach. He attended Dade County Public Schools, Georgia Military College, and after graduating from Harvard University and Columbia Law School, he returned to his home state where was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1955. In 1967, when a new Florida Senate seat was created in District 48 and the historic coin toss occurred, Stone resigned as Miami City Attorney (1966-67) to begin his campaign for the Senate seat. He served as Florida State Senator (1967-70) and Secretary of State until 1974. Senator Richard Stone has the distinction of serving as Florida’s second and most recent Jewish U.S. Senator (1975-1980), and being the first Jewish Senator from the south elected by popular vote. Throughout his career, Senator Stone was known for his likeability and his hearty way of relating to people of all types and cultures. From a Coin Toss tells not only the story of a man who served his state and country, but also chronicles the historic events during this time period and the dramatic changes that took place here in Florida, the U.S. and abroad.

Exhibition sponsors include The Stone Family, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami, Mikki & Morris Futernick, Isabel Bernfeld Anderson, Kenneth & Barbara Bloom and Pinnacle Housing Group.