Today in Jacksonville History: April 29, 1935

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Epping Forest estate, early 1900s. [State Archives of Florida] Hide caption

Dead men have no pockets.

Alfred I. duPont, the wealthiest man in Florida, departed this planet in his pajamas at 12:40 on this Monday morning.

A legend in his time, and ever since, he perished lame and halt and almost blind, a couple of hours after telling his brother-in-law, Ed Ball, that people who used bridges should pay for them.

DuPont died at home at Epping Forest, between Jacksonville and San Jose, apparently of heart congestion, at the age of 70.

A heart attack had felled the storied magnate four days before. Doctors said he appeared on the way to recovery when he fell to a second attack.

DuPont left an estate of incalculable value, much of it assembled since moving to Florida less than a decade before.

In that time he had established the Florida National Bank empire, headed the Almours Securities company and acquired vast acres of Florida real estate, much of it on the Panhandle coast.

In the months before his death, duPont had acquired the entire town of Port St. Joe and the picturesque Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee, which he planned to develop as a tourist attraction.

DuPont had severed his interest in the mighty E.I. DuPont de Nemours Co. of Delaware in 1916, after increasing its assets from $15 million to $82 million in the previous decade.

He acquired his holdings in the company in 1902 and soon emerged as its management genius, developing much of its manufacturing equipment and establishing it as the nation’s leading manufacturer of explosives.

His death marked only a beginning of much of the duPont legacy.

His executors and trustees would use part of his assets to form the St. Joe Paper Co., which owned more than a million acres of northwest Florida timberland and development property. It also controlled Florida East Coast Industries, parent of Florida East Coast Railway and Gran Central Corp.

Biographer Marquis James concluded:

“A life was ended; its work not.”

Florida could not calculate the windfall that would befall it from duPont’s death. The state’s general fund would be due 80 percent of federal inheritance tax on the vast duPont estate — a holding sure to exceed $100 million. Florida had had no inheritance tax prior to 1931, precisely to attract residents such as duPont. That year the Legislature signed on to a federal proposal to disperse the wealth of the deceased.

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