If This Desk Could Talk

You will find many unique objects illustrating St. Augustine’s past in Government House. The storied walls contain collections ranging from archaeological archives to colorful paintings. But no other object holds as many of Florida’s stories as Dr. Michael Gannon’s desk.

Dr. Gannon – a historian and former priest – served as a University of Florida professor for over 40 years. He brought his adopted state’s history alive in his classroom and books. His work chronicled Florida’s story from its Spanish colonial roots to its role in the space race. Some of his best remembered works include Rebel Bishop (1964) and Florida: A Short History (1993).

A wood desk with a name plate and a wood chair sits in a room in front of a window and a fireplace.
Dr. Michael Gannon’s desk is located in the Government House Museum and Cultural Center.

Born in Oklahoma in 1927, Dr. Gannon’s family moved to St. Augustine in the late 1930s after his father’s death. He entered the seminary in the 1950s and became an ordained Catholic priest. While serving as pastor in Gainesville, he receives a Ph.D. in history from UF in 1962. His collegiate work would become the book The Cross in the Sand (1965), which examined 400 years of the Catholic Church’s presence in Florida.

From 1962 until 1967, Dr. Gannon returned to St. Augustine as the director of Mission Nombre de Dios. During his directorship, the city celebrated its quadricentennial or 400th anniversary.

Dr. Michael Gannon presents President John F. Kennedy with a framed copy of an old document. Behind them is a painting of a man in military uniform.
Dr. Michael Gannon presents President John F. Kennedy with a framed copy of the oldest written record from St. Augustine in 1963. (UFDC)

Dr. Gannon then became a faculty member in the history and religion departments at UF in 1967. Over his career, he taught over 16,000 and contributed to many books and articles on history and religion.

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Gannon participated in many organizations on the national, state, and local levels. One of which included the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board. He lent his expertise in colonial heritage as a member from 1969-1997. He continued as a member of the University of Florida Historic St. Augustine, Inc. – a successor to the Preservation Board.

Dr. Gannon retired from UF as a professor emeritus of history in 1998, but continued to teach until 2003. In honor of his career dedicated to the State, he received many honors and awards – including the Order of La Florida from the City of St. Augustine in 2007. He passed away at the age of 89 in 2017.

To learn more about Dr. Gannon’s life and to explore his work, visit the University of Florida’s Smathers Libraries – Special and Area Studies Collections by clicking here.

One thought on “If This Desk Could Talk

  1. Pingback: Nuestra Señora de la Soledad | Our Lady of Solitude – Governor's House Library

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