Steve Meisburg wore many hats: city commissioner, mayor, pastor, activist and musician. For Tallahassee musician Del Suggs, some of his best memories with Meisburg are performing with him on stage.
“Oh gosh, we’ve been friends for 40 years,” Suggs says. “I don’t think he did a show after 1981 or ‘82 that I wasn’t on stage with him…He was just a joy to be around and to perform with on stage. There was nothing like being on stage with Steve. I was always on his left hand side, and having him look over the head of the guitar stock at me and giving me a smile, it just really let you know that everything was okay.”
His band - Meisburg and Walters - was one of the first groups signed with Casablanca Records, Suggs says. The label also represented Kiss and Donna Summer.
“He just had a real gift on stage,” he says. “He could make people feel comfortable and feel at home. You could be a total stranger and watch him perform and by the end of the night you thought you were old friends. Just a really remarkable artist.”
As a politician, Meisburg spearheaded major projects like the Tallahassee Winter Festival and renovations at Kleman Plaza.
Suggs says his friend came up with the idea for the Winter Festival when he went to a lighting ceremony while attending the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
"Now 150,000 people go downtown for the lighting ceremony, the Winter Festival," Suggs says. "Prior to that about 4,000 people showed up to see someone flip the switch and turn the lights on. That’s all there was.”
Meisburg was also a strong advocate for civil rights.
Suggs says Meisburg marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. He also mediated between Springtime Tallahassee and residents to move a costumed Andrew Jackson from the front of the parade to the middle of the lineup.
Residents began protesting the use of Florida’s first territorial governor in 1989, because Jackson was a slave-holder and opponent of Native Americans.
“It was such a divisive issue at the time,” Suggs says. “It was all or nothing and Steve said, ‘Well, how about we’re just able to move him back in the parade?’ It made everybody happy. So he was just a master at finding solutions to complex issues of the time.”
However despite his accomplishments, Suggs says his friend didn’t boast about them.
“He was never about personal recognition,” he says. “So most of the things he did, you will never know about. But if you dug through the city records you would see the things he did, the coalitions he built when he was on the city commission that really made things happen in Tallahassee.”
Correction: A previous airing of this story misstated that Meisburg marched in the March on Washington. He participated in the march from Selma to Montgomery. Ala.