Dr. Crispell Featured in PBS Documentary

December 9, 2013

Florida College’s own Dr. Brian Lewis Crispell was recently featured in PBS’s “A Friend to Presidents: Senator George A. Smathers,” a documentary on the late Florida senator George Smathers.

crispell.brianIn the early ‘90s while completing graduate work at Florida State University, Dr. Crispell discovered George Smathers while researching President Kennedy’s foreign policy. Curious as to why such a prominent Florida politician had so little written about him, Crispell broadened his research until it eventually led him to a Miami phonebook, where he found the former senator’s information and contacted him for an interview.

Crispell then focused his graduate’s studies around Smathers, particularly on his career in foreign affairs in Latin America, and graduated with his master’s in 1993. In 1996 he completed a biography on the senator, which served as his doctorate thesis. The biography, “Testing the Limits: George Armistead Smathers and Cold War America” was published in 1999 by University of Georgia Press.

George Smathers’ senatorial victory over Claude Pepper in 1950 highlighted the complex issues of race and communism, and in many ways paralleled future civil rights issues and the Cold War. During his 18-year term as senator, he helped expand the ports of Miami, was instrumental in establishing the space program in Florida, and, as a Miami native, was resolute in stopping the spread of communism in Latin American, and was one of the first to identify Fidel Castro as a problem for the United States.

November 11, 2013, marked what would have been the 100th birthday of the late senator, who died in 2007. To celebrate the occasion, his alma mater, the University of Florida, hosted a screening of the documentary, where Dr. Crispell and others, including Smathers’ son, Bruce, were featured in a panel discussion.

To view “A Friend to Presidents: Senator George A. Smathers” online, visit video.wpbt2.org/video/2365115321/