Memories of the Speaker
Updated: Oct 1, 2019
Post # 83, Bob McKnight's Florida Political Commentary
I first met Don Tucker in 1974 at the Miami Springs Villa, as a guest of Bank Lobbyist John Roberts. The event was a fund raiser for the Speaker's Victory Fund, typical for an incoming Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Don had beaten back the candidacy of Representative Buddy MacKay of Gainesville, who had the backing of most of the Miami-Dade Delegation. Although I had met MacKay at another event and felt very comfortable with him, I was not expected to align myself with anyone until sworn in. But the Speaker went out of his way to say to Roberts, "John this guy and I had the same football coach in high school, let's help him." The Speaker was talking about Carl Walker, a coach at Wakulla High and later Lake Worth High School.
After I had beeworn in, the Speaker announced only 2 of the 50 freshman members would Chair a Subcommittee in their very first session--Lee Moffitt of Tampa and me. I knew I was expected now to be part of the "leadership" team. As that first Session would down, I found myself at odds with the Speaker on backpumping into Lake Ockeeochobee, funding levels for Perinatal Care, and my close relationship with former Miami-Dade Legislators Marshall Harris, Murray Dubbin, and Senator George Firestone, all foes of Tucker. I did not expect to keep my Chairmanship into the second Session, but the Speaker was very kind to leave me as Chairman.
Though my start with the Speaker started out rough, I found him to be a delight to be around. His sense of humor, especially on the floor was so memorable. When Dr. Sackett, who sat next to me, fell into his light afternoon, Tucker would bellow into the Chamber microphone, "For What Reason Dr. Sackett AWAKE?" I also remember the Speaker, after overriding a couple of vetoes of Governor Askew, smiled up and said, "This is kinda fun, huh?" The House howled.
As with so much in politics, my relationship with the Speaker came full circle in the 80's. He retired from the House to become a lobbyist, and I was elected to the Senate. I remember when he came up to me in the Senate for help on funding for disabled children which was for a client of his and I said, "Mr. Speaker it would be an honor." That is just the way it was then.