In 1924, Southwest Florida was entering a new era of prosperity as dirt and mud were giving way to concrete and steel. Thomas Edison was creating many of his inventions at his winter home on the Caloosahatchee River, and Barron Collier's vision of land development in southern Lee County would soon result in the formation of Collier County.
It was at this time that two young lawyers, Robert Abner (R.A.) Henderson, Jr., a graduate of the University of Florida School of Law (1914); and James A. Franklin, Sr., also a graduate of the University of Florida School of Law (1921), started their practice in The Collier Building in Fort Myers and their participation in the shaping of Southwest Florida's future began.
During the Firm's early years Mr. Henderson helped organize the Lee County Bank and Fort Myers Savings & Loan, serving as president of the latter. He later organized First Federal Savings & Loan and served as a director until 1947. In 1930, Mr. Henderson was elected president of The Florida State Bar Association, and in 1933 he was appointed by Florida Governor Sholtz to serve on the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. He also served as director and president of the Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, as a charter member of the Rotary Club of Fort Myers, and as a board member of several other civic organizations and private businesses.
Mr. Franklin was prominent both locally and statewide and was elected to the Florida State Senate in 1942, and was re-elected in 1946 and 1950. He was also a member of the Rotary Club of Fort Myers and served as a district governor of Rotary International. He was a Commander of the Fort Myers American Legion and served as judge advocate of the Florida American Legion. He was widely known for his Radio Bible Class program which aired every Sunday morning. As an officer in the U.S. Army, Lt. Col. Franklin accepted the German surrender of the city of Frankfurt during World War II, and later organized a military government to run the city.
The Firm was instrumental in the formation of the Caloosahatchee Bridge Company, which built and maintained the first bridge across the river and opened Fort Myers to the rest of the county via the Tamiami Trail in 1924. R.A. Henderson served as legal counsel to Barron Collier in the organization of Collier County in 1929. In 1931, F.E. Starnes joined the Firm, followed by Parker Holt in 1936, and the Firm became Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt.