TAMPA, Florida -- Bob Bolt's eyes welled up with tears as he talked about the sudden loss of not only his business partner, but his best friend for nearly 50 years, Bill McBride.
"Can't even talk about it," said Bolt. "The last couple of weeks he'd been in the best mood. I mean, it's really a total shock."
McBride, who had a history of heart trouble, died from an apparent heart attack late Saturday in North Carolina. He was with his wife, Alex Sink, and their children celebrating the holiday weekend at Sink's family estate. They'd planned to return to the Bay Area today to spend Christmas with relatives.
"Everything was upbeat. He was excited. I think he had a very good day the last day of his life," said Bolt.
McBride was not just a former gubernatorial candidate, but a political powerhouse within Florida's Democratic party. A gifted lawyer and successful businessman, he's credited with building Holland McKnight into one of the nation's premier law firms.
"He had the energy of ten men. I mean, no one can work harder, do more than Bill McBride," said Bolt. "His energy level never diminished. He never really diminished until the very end."
As word of McBride's passing spread, several politicians and former colleagues shared words of respect and admiration.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said a void would be left behind. "Bill McBride was larger than life. People realize in the loss of Bill just how large in life he was. Whatever it was, Bill was in it with gusto," said Nelson.
"He was a great American," said former governor Charlie Crist. "A veteran, a great servant, and he will be sorely missed. And I can appreciate someone who dedicates themselves to justice. To civil and social justice, and that's what Bill McBride did."
Jim Davis, a former colleague of McBride's at Holland and Knight, described McBride as working tirelessly.
"Bill had so much impact for so long on so many people you can't measure it," said Davis. "He cared very deeply for public education. He was always involved in trying to improve our schools."
But for all of his accomplishments, Bob Bolt said Bill McBride's legacy is his family: his wife, Alex, his recently-married daughter, Lexi, and his son, Bert.
"He's probably the most outstanding father I'd ever seen. He really was," said Bolt. "To me that was his most outstanding quality."
Funeral arrangements for McBride are tentatively set for this Friday at the Palm Ceia Presbyterian Church in Tampa. Details on time have not yet been announced.