Upon graduating from Duncan U. Fletcher High School he enrolled in the Citadel, majoring in civil engineering. With the outbreak of the Second World War, he and his entire class left after one semester to enlist in the military. Dr. DeGrove served from 1942 to 1946 in the U.S. Army 102nd Infantry. He was awarded a Silver Star for gallantry in action and a Purple Heart for wounds received in action.
Dr. DeGrove went on to receive his B.A. in History from Rollins College, M.A. in Political Science from Emory University, and Ph.D. in Public Administration from the University of North Carolina. After teaching with the University of Florida and the University of North Carolina he joined FAU’s Department of Political Science and later served as Dean of the College of Social Sciences.
Dr. DeGrove championed land use planning and water management in his beloved state of Florida. He served as founding director of the FAU/FIU Joint Center for Environmental and Urban Problems from 1971-1998, and retired in 2000 from FAU as Eminent Scholar Emeritus in Growth Management and Development in the College for Design and Social Inquiry. The John M. DeGrove Eminent Scholar Chair was established in his honor.
In 1971, Dr. DeGrove was one of the key advisors of then Governor Reuben Askew in developing the national and internationally acclaimed five Water Management Districts. Among his strongest advice to Governor Askew was that the Board of the Districts be held responsible to the Governor with little interference from the legislature that has limited knowledge of water resource issues.
From 1983 to 1985 Dr. DeGrove served as Secretary of the newly formed Florida’s Department of Community with verve and distinction. He assembled superior staffs who were devoted to him and their mission. As Secretary under Governor Bob Graham he was instrumental in the conception and passage of Florida’s 1985 Growth Management Act and the State Comprehensive Plan, becoming known as the “Father of Growth Management” in Florida.
Recognizing the need for an independent “watchdog” over the state’s newly created system of managing growth, he was one of the founders of 1000 Friends of Florida, serving as its president and then president emeritus. His fellow board members and staff will always remember his love for Florida, passion for growth management, common sense approach to problem solving, and infectious enthusiasm.
In honor of 1000 Friends’ 15th anniversary in 2001, Governor Jeb Bush and the Cabinet issued a resolution honoring Dr. DeGrove “for his decades of outstanding work on behalf of the people and natural resources of Florida.” To commemorate the anniversary, Senator Bob Graham wrote:
John, your clear sense of vision for Florida’s future, tempered with a balanced mixture of tenacity and pragmatism, has served our state well. I cannot imagine what problems would be facing our state today without your many years of wise counsel to several generations of planners and public policy leaders. There are few people in this state who have impacted each and every Floridian on a daily basis with such positive force as you.
Nationally recognized as an authority in the fields of planning and public administration, Dr. DeGrove was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the National Commission on Urban Problems (the Douglas Commission) from 1967-1968. He served as advisor to the state/regional/local planning and growth management systems in the states of California, Georgia, Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Canada, earning him the distinction of “Grandfather of Growth Management.”
He authored numerous publications on growth management, including three definitive books, Land, Growth and Politics in 1984, The New Frontier for Land Policy in 1992, and Planning Policy and Politics: Smart Growth and the States in 2005. His memberships included the National Academy of Public Administration and the American Planning Association, and he was named a Fellow with American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) in 2006.
Every citizen of this great state owes Dr. John DeGrove boundless thanks for his years of service working to make water management effective and creating the tools for local government to control unwanted growth in areas of genuine concern for sprawl and defense of special natural areas.
His family is planning a memorial service in Florida at a yet-to-be-determined location and date.
John DeGrove will be sorely missed by his colleagues and the people of Florida.