Ben Hill Griffin Jr. is probably most famous for having the University of Florida
's football stadium
named after him, not to mention numerous roads and schools throughout Florida
. He was born in Tiger Bay, Florida
, and died in 1990
with a fortune in excess of $300 million.
Griffin's wealth started with ten acres of farmland, a wedding gift from his father. That ten-acre plot eventually bloomed into one of the largest cattle, citrus, and sugar companies in the United States, Alico, which now owns some 140,000 acres of prime land.
Despite never finishing college—he dropped out of UF in 1933—Griffin became one of Florida's most prominent individuals. He ran for the state house in 1956 and represented Polk County for eight years, before moving to the state senate for another four. He then served as a special committee chairman under governor Reubin Askew, focusing on implementing new corporate taxes. In 1974, Griffin even ran against Askew for governor, but he lost.
By the time Griffin died, he had given UF more than $20 million and had endowed other institutions as well, including UC-Berkeley and the school that would become Florida Gulf Coast University.
His estate was divided between his son, Ben Hill Griffin III, and his four daughters. Ben III got 40%, and the daughters split 60%. However, Ben took over the entire trust and used it to do some creative finance maneuvers for himself, sparking an epic lawsuit that has, to my knowledge, never been resolved.
The four Griffin daughters, incidentally, have further political connections. One of them, Sarah Jane Alexander, is the mother of state representative J.D. Alexander. Another, Harriet Harris, is the mother of congresswoman Katherine Harris, whom you might remember from the 2000 U.S. presidential election.
And while we're at it, Ben Hill Griffin IV is working his way up the ranks at his father's company...