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Quorum Call for Senator Dempsey Barron (D., Panama City)

Post # 188, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary

I wrote this Quorum Call in the Tallahassee Democrat eight years ago. The essence of this profile is about the most powerful member of the Florida Legislature during the time I served in the '70's and '80's until 2013. I am here to report that there is no change. Senator Dempsey Barron was easily the most impactful state lawmaker the state has ever had.

If that is the case, why was he so powerful? Here are some of his impressive attributes:

  • Barron was smart, with a law degree and a very sharp memory.

  • He surrounded him self with equally sharp and loyal assistants, ranging from his aide and wife, lawyer Terry Jo Kennedy and Senate Secretary Howard Walton. With their focus on the Senator's interests, Barron missed nothing in the operation of the body.

  • Barron was a voracious reader of parliamentary history and knowledge of the Senate Rules. He used that historical knowledge to his advantage over newer members.

  • He was charming, funny, and relentless creating a near perfect personality for the Senate.

  • Barron knew his reputation was advanced beyond reality, and sought to advance the myths for his memorialization.

  • He was fond of the grape (actually whiskey), and his sometimes inebriated condition left many an opponent unsure of his anticipated motives and behavior.

Senator Barron was an important part of Florida's history, and from the perspective of this member of both the House and Senate serving with him, he was the most powerful member ever to serve.


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