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Civic Hall of Fame Series: Francis Spence

Civic Hall of Fame Series: Francis Spence

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Spence had the original vision to build a bridge from Niceville to Destin in order to expand and diversify the local economy and was the driving force for the Chamber to endorse the “White Point Bridge” beginning in 1968. He never wavered from pursuing this project…

 

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in an eight-part series featuring the inaugural inductees in the Niceville Valparaiso Civic Hall of Fame. The series is sponsored by our Community Partner, Twin Cities Hospital. The 2017 inductees will be announced at the Civic Hall of Fame Luncheon on July 19.

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Francis Walter Spence was born in 1926 in Niceville and graduated from Niceville High School in 1944. He served in the Navy during WWII and then studied at Tulane University, and MIT. In 1950, as a civilian engineer at Eglin AFB, he headed up the Physical Science and Target Development branches of the Armament Center where he received many commendations for services outside his normal duties including cookouts for troops and a study of the effects of DDT on fish populations.

Spence left the area for 10 years from 1963-73 and returned to open Spence Brothers Properties, assisted with existing companies owned by his family. He was a consultant for Government contractors over the years and was recognized by Honeywell for providing mentorship and vision resulting in over $1 billion in Air Force business.

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Spence served as President of the Niceville Valparaiso Chamber 1975-1976, during which time he came up with the concept of the Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival as a means to attract business to town. He continued to be involved with the festival over the years, using it to foster the relationship between the local community and Eglin AFB.

 

As a humanitarian, he personally sponsored over 75 families who were Vietnamese Refugees housed at local temporary “tent cities” as they were integrated into our nation and community.

Spence had the original vision to build a bridge from Niceville to Destin in order to expand and diversify the local economy and was the driving force for the Chamber to endorse the “White Point Bridge” beginning in 1968. He never wavered from pursuing this project and the Mid-Bay Bridge finally opened in 1993 with over 10,000 people participating in a race after the mayors and chamber presidents met in the middle to exchange gifts as the two cities were finally connected.

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Spence worked extensively promoting and protecting our local military mission, commerce, economic development and spearheaded the first fully comprehensive environmental studies of Choctawhatchee Bay which recognizing the importance of protecting our delicate waterways as the area is developed.

SEE RELATED POST: Civic Hall of Fame Series: William Nathey

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