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Former Florida lawmaker and children's advocate Sam Bell has died

Representative Sam Bell is seen talking on the phone on the floor of the House surrounded by lawmakers in 1987
Dughi, Donn(Donald Gregory), 1932-2005
Florida Memory - state archives
Representative Sam Bell talks on the phone on the floor of the Florida House in 1987.

Sam Bell, a former powerful member of the Florida House and later a longtime lobbyist, died Tuesday night, according to an announcement from the office of his stepdaughter, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.

Bell, a Democrat, represented Volusia County in the House from 1974 to 1988 and held high-ranking positions such as appropriations chairman. He was in line to become House speaker in 1988 but lost a re-election bid in his district.

Bell was married for 34 years to Betty Castor, a former state education commissioner and president of the University of South Florida. The announcement Wednesday from Kathy Castor’s office said he died after an “unexpected health complication.”

Bell lobbied for a wide range of clients after leaving the House but was heavily involved in children’s health-care issues.

Wednesday’s announcement said he “founded the University of South Florida College of Public Health and was considered the ‘father’ of the institution.”

Services were not immediately announced