The coin toss is a tried-and-true tradition of settling minor disputes like who will kick off or receive in a football game, who will go first in a board game, or who gets stuck paying the tab at a bar or restaurant.
And on some rare occasions, it is used to settle more important issues.
The two New England natives who founded Portland both vied for the bragging rights of naming the 640-acre locale after their respective hometowns. Pioneers Asa Lovejoy (of Boston) and Francis Pettygrove (from Portland, Maine) split the site’s land claim and settled the decision on a coin toss.
Pettygrove won the best two-out-of-three coin toss in the parlor of the Francis Ermatinger House in Oregon City and the rest is history. Portland was incorporated in 1849, and the copper one-cent piece, minted in 1835 and now dubbed the Portland Penny, is on display at the Oregon Historical Society Museum.
Wilbur Wright gained the chance to make history when he won a coin toss against brother Orville in their camp at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, in 1903. Wilbur bested his brother in the coin toss for the first crack at flying on December 14, but in a twist of fate, Wilbur stalled the flyer in his first attempt, diving the flyer into the sand. Three days later, after repairs, Orville was the first to get the contraption airborne at 10:30 on December 17th, 1903.
Perhaps the most historic coin flip in Apopka history took place today at City Hall when Commissioner Doug Bankson was named Vice Mayor at the Apopka City Council meeting after winning a coin-flip against Commissioner Kyle Becker by Mayor Bryan Nelson. The Council then followed the advice of the coin and voted 5-0 on a motion to install Bankson into the post. He succeeds Commissioner Billie Dean who retired after 24 years on the City Council.
Here’s how we got to this historic coin flip…
According to the Apopka City Charter, the City Commissioner with the most seniority on the Council is named Vice Mayor.
However, in the case of this City Commission, Bankson and Becker have equal seniority (two years in office). Nelson explained that because of the tie, the Council would have to vote to decide on the position. Nelson then turned to Becker for his thoughts.
“I’m certainly not going to lobby for it,” Becker said. “I think it’s a position that obviously both Commissioner Bankson and I would enjoy having and would take serious ownership of if we were lucky enough to have that title, but I’m not going to campaign for it… so I’ll let it be the will of the Council.”
For a moment, the Council was silent.
“Does the Council wish to put it off two weeks? Nelson asked. “What’s your pleasure?”
“Do either of you want to volunteer and we can put it to a motion?” Commissioner Alice Nolan asked. “Or should we just draw straws?”
The Council remained silent again, and then Nelson pulled a coin from his pocket, a 1974 American Quarter to be exact, flipped it into the air, and caught it.
“Heads or tails?” Nelson asked, looking in Becker’s direction.
“Tails,” Becker responded.
“Heads,” he said looking at Bankson.
After the coin flip, Nolan made a motion that Bankson be installed as Vice Mayor and Commissioner Alexander H. Smith seconded the motion, which passed 5-0.
Not exactly a Lincoln-Douglas debate moment, but Bankson was pleased with the civility of the deliberation.