Mary Ellen Hawkins of Tallahassee was born in Alabama and worked for the chaplain at Gunter Field in Montgomery during World War II. She then attended the University of Alabama until moving to Washington DC, where, for the next ten years, she was a congressional aide. Although then a male-dominated profession, she worked her way up to serving as a top aide to Representative Kenneth Keating of New York. Married in 1960 in Americus, Georgia, she had three children and was active in local politics before moving to Naples, Florida in 1972. There she covered politics for the Naples Daily News until 1974 when she was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. Mary Ellen, the first female to represent Collier County in the Florida House, was subsequently reelected to ten consecutive terms until retiring in 1994. ln 1983 she was elected to the board of BancFlorida Financial Corporation, a NASDAQ traded stock and holding company for BancFlorida, and in 1991 became Chairman of the Board. Representative Hawkins is cited as a driving force in the development of Southwest Florida as well as a tireless advocate for women and girls. As an effective legislator and respected member of most major legislative committees, she was a tireless advocate for her community.

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