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Memorial Planned For Former Fla Congressman, 'Father' of USF, Sam Gibbons; His Legacy Remembered

USF Library Collections

Friends, family, and colleagues are expected to gather for a service next weekend to remember a former Florida Congressman who recently passed away at the age of 92. Sam Gibbons, who’s also a World War II Veteran and former Florida lawmaker, leaves behind a huge legacy. That includes an effort in the 1950s that earned him the name: the “father” of the state’s fourth public University.

Sam Gibbons’ more than 30 years in Congress included chairing the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Before that, he served several terms in the Florida Legislature. And, his eldest son Cliff says it was during his Senate term in the 1950s, that he led an effort to convince his colleagues to create the University of South Florida in Tampa.

“They [thought they] had it already figured out. They had Florida for the men, Florida State for the women, and Florida A&M for the African Americans, and they didn’t see any need for anything else," remarked Cliff.

"But, he had a lot of passion to say that 'there is another part of the state, south of Gainesville. And, we really need it [USF].' So, after three to five years of really slugging it out in the trenches, and I was around the dining room table when they were doing this, and it was contentious, it was wild, and there was a lot of debate, they created the university."

In addition to his wife and son Cliff, Gibbons leaves behind two other sons and seven grandchildren. A memorial service is scheduled in Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church in Tampa at 11 a.m. on Saturday, October 20th.  It's open to the public and close to 600 people are expected to attend.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.