Fred Karl pictured in 1964 as a gubernatorial candidate. (Credit: Florida State Archives)
Tampa, Florida -- After a long battle with Parkinson's Disease, former Supreme Court Justice, legislator and longtime Hillsborough County public servant Fred Karl has died. He was 88 years old.
PHOTOS: Fred Karl through the years
Fred Karl was a giant in shaping not only the Tampa Bay area, but also the State of Florida.
He helped make his mark in his first term as a member of the Florida House in 1957. Karl was part of a group called the 57 club. They were 57 legislators that fought what was known as the Pork Chop Gang comprised of legislators from North Florida who dominated the legislature. It helped change the state from a segregated rural state to a major modern force in the country.
After 8 years in the House, Karl decided to run for governor in 1964, but lost a five-way Democratic Primary. Four years later, in 1968 Karl was back in Tallahassee, but this time as a state senator.
Following his 12 years in the legislator, Karl became Florida's first public counsel. He then served as a Florida Supreme Court Justice in 1977 and 1978.
After three Hillsborough commissioners were arrested and convicted on bribery charges in the early '80's, Karl was hired as county administrator as those not affected by the bribery charges said they needed someone of his stature to restore respectability to the county.
During that time, Karl was able to help cut a deal that resulted in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the home of the Lightning and the Spring Training Complex on Dale Mabry for the New York Yankees.
In addition, Karl was able to negotiate a favorable financial deal for the County to move into what was an empty office building in downtown called Mack 2.
In 2008, the building was renamed the Frederick Karl County Center in his honor.
Without Karl, Tampa General Hospital would likely not be the institution it is today. He went to chair that board and is credited with saving Tampa General from financial woes.
Although he kept retiring, Karl kept getting called back to public service. When Pam Iorio was elected mayor in 2004 one of her first appointments was Fred Karl as city attorney. He stepped down six months later at age 80.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn released the following statement after learning of Karl's passing:
"Fred Karl was a war hero, dutiful public servant, and statesman. No matter his role, Fred was always a calming influence on those around him. He believed that fairness should always carry the day, and his love for our community and the people, who shaped it, regardless of their color or creed, superseded anything else. Fred represented everything good about public service and carried himself with the moral dignity of a man whose ethical compass always pointed true north.
"Fred will be missed, and my thoughts are with his wife and family."
Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan also released a statement on Fred Karl's passing:
"Today, we have lost one of the giants in leadership and dedication to Hillsborough County with the passing of Fred Karl.>
On behalf of the Board of County Commissioners, I wish to extend my deepest condolences to his family and his many, many friends.
Mr. Karl worked tirelessly for the people of Hillsborough County as County Attorney and later as County Administrator. He championed fairness, and was a confident, calming force whenever crisis occurred. He brought a breath of vision and direction to every challenge. A genuine gentleman in every interaction, Fred Karl always respected the dignity and position of each person with whom he had a conversation.
We are proud to bear his name in the downtown seat of County government, the Fred B. Karl County Center."
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson released this statement on Karl's passing:
"Fred Karl was a role model for excellent public service. His lifelong legacy as a public servant draws the conclusion: 'well done thy good and faithful servant'."
There is no doubt Florida and the Tampa Bay area have changed for the better because of his service.