David Levy Yulee
U.S. Senator (D-Florida)
Born: June 12, 1810
Birthplace: St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
David Levy Yulee was born on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, went to school in Virginia, and moved to Florida in 1824, where his father had bought 50,000 acres of land near Jacksonville. His father, a Moroccan Jew named Moses Elias Levy, intended to build a homestead for Jewish settlers in Florida.
Yulee went to law school in St. Augustine and became a delegate to the U.S. Congress from the Florida territory in 1841. He spearheaded the campaign for Florida's admission as a state, which occurred in 1845. A Democrat, he became a U.S. senator that year, and served two terms, 1845–1851 and 1855–1861.
Originally known as David Levy, he changed his name to include that of an ancestor's, Yulee, in 1846. He was the first Jewish senator in American history. In 1846 he converted to Christianity, but that did not halt the anti-Semitic hostility he endured his entire career.
As senator, Yulee was a great advocate for a Florida railroad. He also supported slavery and the South's secession from the Union, and he joined the Confederate congress during the Civil War. After the Confederacy's defeat, he was imprisoned for nine months and then pardoned. He then turned his attention to building a Florida railroad, and served as president of several Florida railroad companies. In Florida, the town of Yulee and the county of Levy are named after him.Died: Oct. 10, 1886