Governor Claude Roy Kirk, Jr.
January 7, 1926 - September 28, 2011
Governor Claude Roy Kirk, Jr. passed away peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday morning, September 28, 2011 at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida. Governor Kirk was born January 7, 1926 in San Bernardino, California. He lived in Chicago, Illinois and then moved to Montgomery, Alabama where he attended Sidney Lanier High School and graduated at age 17. He served in the United States Marine Corps and rose to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.Kirk served in both World War II and the Korean War.Following his service he attended the University of Alabama and also became a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He went on to graduate from the University of Alabama Law School. In 1956, he moved to Jacksonville, Florida where he co-founded American Heritage Life Insurance Company. Complementing his success in business, he decided to run for elected office.In 1968, Claude Kirk became Florida's 36th Governor and the first Republican governor of the state since Reconstruction.
During his term in office, he oversaw the drafting and successful enactment of Florida's modern State Constitution, signed legislation side-by-side with Roy Disney, Jr. to bring Walt Disney World to Florida, created a centralized law enforcement agency which is today known as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and in an unprecedented move by a chief executive, began to focus on the stewardship of Florida's natural resources.This passion followed him for the next forty years where he worked tirelessly with friends and acquaintances to protect the Everglades and maintain a clean water supply throughout Florida. Kirk served as a Republican but quickly came to be known as an independent thinker and pursued many diverse reforms throughout his term.
Following 1971, Kirk moved to Palm Beach, Florida and returned to various national and international business pursuits. He campaigned again several times for elected office, became a sought after public speaker and enjoyed his regular visits with the press.
Claude Kirk has often been referred to as "Claudius Maximus" and was known by many to have a larger than life personality.He was a colorful politician with a charismatic ability to tell stories and entertain an audience. He captured the attention of all, whether you agreed with his views or not. It could be said that Kirk made each and every person he met feel like they were his favorite. Gov. Kirk was known to appear often with his signature scuffed tan Stetson hat, which he never left home without.
Claude Kirk would claim his greatest blessings to be his large family.Gov. Kirk is survived by his German-born wife, Erika Mattfeld Kirk, and his 7 children, 14 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren, which include: Sarah Patent (children: Sophie and Alexander), Katharine "Kitty" Crenshaw (married to United States Representative Ander Crenshaw (R-Jacksonville), children: Sarah and Brad Grace, and Alex Crenshaw), William Kirk (married to Tricia; children: Neillie and Tom Butler, Laura and Andrew Willoughby, and Hannon and Cameron Doody), Frank Kirk, Adriana Dolabella, Claudia Kirk Barto (children: Wen, Kirk and Marina Barto), and Erik Kirk (married to Kristen; children: Caroline, Teddy, Katherine "Kaki" and Annabelle).
Claude Kirk was a family man, friend, Espiscopalian, politician, businessman, and champion of Florida's natural resources.
Congressman Ander Crenshaw said of his later father-in-law: "Claude Kirk could be hysterically funny and fearlessly bold, and he championed the environment, education and diversity long before those issues were fashionable."
A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday, October 3, 2011 at Bethesda-By-The-Sea Episcopal Church, 141 South County Road, Palm Beach, Florida 33480, with The Rev. James R. Harlan, Rector, officiating. The family will receive friends during a reception immediately following the Service.
A graveside service with Military Honors will be held privately at the South Florida National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests that donations made be made in the governor's memory to The Everglades Foundation, 18001 Old Cutler Road, Suite 625, Palmetto Bay, Florida 33157.
For general questions, please contact Gus Corbella at 850-222-6891, direct all media inquiries to Sarah Bascom at 850-294-6636 and other inquiries to Quattlebaum Funeral Home at 561-832-5171.
Published in Tallahassee Democrat on Oct. 2, 2011