Frederick B. KARL

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KARL, Frederick B., 88, passed away March 7, 2013. Mr. Karl was a revered statesman whose career in all three branches of state government, as well as county and municipal governments, spanned more than 50 years. As a respected problem-solver, Fred Karl saw to it that government worked for the good of its citizens and insisted that everyone be treated with fairness and respect. Mr. Karl was born in 1924 in Daytona Beach, the son of Frederick J. Karl and Mary Brennan Karl. Upon graduation from Seabreeze High School, he enrolled at the University of Florida but left his studies in 1942 to join the Army after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He saw action as a tank platoon leader in Europe, serving in the 2nd Armored Division, where he was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart medals. After the war, Mr. Karl received a law degree from Stetson University, opened a law practice in Daytona Beach and later became the City Attorney for Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach. Elected to the Florida Legislature in 1957, he and a handful of courageous colleagues fought against segregation and paved the way for Florida to move forward with a new state constitution, "Sunshine Laws" and common-sense policies on civil rights, education, environment and taxation. In 1964, he ran for governor, one of five Democrats who sought the seat ultimately won by Hayden Burns; it was the only election he lost. In 1974, Mr. Karl became Florida's first Public Counsel, representing consumers when public utilities requested rate hikes. In 1976 Mr. Karl won statewide office with his election to the Florida Supreme Court - the last Justice to be elected after the position became appointed. Moving to Tampa in 1988, Mr. Karl served as County Attorney for Hillsborough County and then as County Administrator. He led Hillsborough County through a period of rapid improvement in county services and modernized governmental processes and procedures. He spearheaded diversity in county employment, reaching out to all minorities in the community. Among his many legacies was the purchase of a downtown high-rise office building, which bears his name. He also was instrumental in establishing a model health care system for the poor, working with the New York Yankees to build Legends Field and negotiating with the Tampa Bay Lightning for an arena and professional hockey team. Leaving public service in 1994, Mr. Karl took the helm of Tampa General Hospital and re-established it as one of the premiere hospitals in the state. In 2003 newly elected Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio tapped him as City Attorney. He "officially" retired in 2004 at age 80. In his retirement, Mr. Karl wrote "The 57 Club," a first-hand account of Florida politics in the '50s and '60s. Mr. Karl is survived by his wife, Mercedes; seven children, Linda Herrington (Jerry), Cynthia Stamm-Clarke (Brian), Frederick B. "Rick" Karl, Mary Bruder (David), James B. Karl (Michelle), Debbie Karl and Tami Karl; 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. A Memorial Service will be held Friday, March 15, to celebrate the life of Mr. Karl, 2 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S. Franklin Street. All are welcome to attend. In lieu of flowers, the Karl family asks well-wishers to send donations to the Frederick B. Karl Veterans Scholarship, Office of the Department of Alumni Relations, Stetson University College of Law, 1401 61st St. S., Gulfport, FL 33707.

Published in the Tampa Bay Times on Mar. 13, 2013