L. Charles Hilton, Jr. is an attorney, contractor, and developer in Panama City, Florida. Hilton is a strong advocate for economic freedom and health freedom as well. Charles is a founding board member of Citizens for Health Freedom, a Florida not-for-profit corporation that successfully passed the Health Freedom Bill in 2001, giving patients the right to receive, and licensed health care practitioners the right to provide complementary and alternative health care with informed consent.
He and his wife, Lela, founded The Hilton Family Foundation, which has contributed to education, research and development of natural complementary and alternative medicine worldwide. He is the immediate past Chairman of The James Madison Institute, a Florida-based research and educational organization engaged in the battle of ideas, rooted in the U.S. Constitution and in such timeless principles as economic freedom, limited government, and individual liberty coupled with individual responsibility. Hilton has long been active in trying to save our country by urging less government, more economic freedom, and less taxes in all aspects of Americans’ life, including government policies and laws relating to health care.
Hilton was educated in the public schools of Florida, receiving his B.A. Degree in Finance and Business Administration from the University of Florida in 1952, and his Law Degree Cum Laude from that same institution in 1954. He is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and Beta Gamma Sigma as well as other business and legal fraternities.
Hilton served in the United States Air Force for two years as a Judge Advocate and has practiced law inPanama City, Bay County, Florida since 1956. He was a partner in the law firm of Barron and Hilton until 1969, when he became President of a small one bank holding company inPanama City, Florida. During the time Hilton served with the company, they promoted and built an additional bank, a small business investment company, and conducted a two-tier investment firm featuring a private venture capital company along with the two banks and the SBIC. In 1973, he returned to the private practice of law and became more heavily involved in general contracting and real estate development.
In 1958, Hilton organized Gulf Asphalt Corporation (now GAC Contractors, Inc.). He is the principal stockholder, Chairman, and C.E.O. of that company, which has been successful over the past 50 years. The firm is qualified with all federal, state, and local governmental agencies and has been involved in all types of construction, including roads, bridges, buildings, and structures of all types.
Hilton has been involved, both for himself and others, in the development of motels, apartments, and commercial buildings. Today his family corporation, Hilton, Inc., owns and operates 950 hotel units in BayCounty, including the 342-unit Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort, the 100-unit Casa Loma, the 173-unit Holiday Inn Select, 147-unit Paradise Found Resort, and the 188-unit Days Inn. The Hiltons and their associates also own and operate an 18-hole golf course and a 9-hole executive golf course. Hilton built and operated the latest state-of-the-art fiber optic broadband cable television system for Panama City Beach, Florida, with the capability of providing local and long distance telephone service, cable T.V., and high speed computer modems. This company was later merged with Knology Holdings, now owned by
ITC Holdings of West Point, Georgia. Hilton was an automobile dealer for approximately 25 years until the dealership was sold in 1997.
The Hiltons organized and operate their own self-insurance company for their various companies, and handle security and loss prevention in-house.
Hilton has been active in civic work and community affairs throughout his career and, among other things, was the Charter President of the First Optimist Club of Panama City. In earlier years, he was very active in the Methodist Church and in other service organizations. He has served on the Governor’s Tourist Advisory Council, the Florida Hotel & Motel Association Board, the Executive Board of the Gulf Coast Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the National Eagles Scouts Association, and has been active in Scouting throughout his career. He has also served twice as Chairman of the Bay County Resort Council and is past President of the Florida Transportation Builders Association (formerly Florida Road Builders), and past Chairman of Florida TaxWatch. He also served on the board of the National Taxpayers Union and as a member of the State Tax Reform Task Force.
During the early part of his legal career, Hilton engaged primarily in trial work, but eventually his business and corporate practice became dominant. He and his wife of 53 years, Lela, have two children, Julie and Chip. Lela manages the family hotels, which have won numerous national awards. Julie is active in managing the hotels.