TALLAHASSEE — Former Florida Senate President Jim King, who sometimes fought Gov. Jeb Bush and his own Republican Party over the Terri Schiavo right-to-die battle in 2005, died Sunday after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer, a family spokeswoman said. He was 69.
King, who served as Senate president from 2002 to 2004, underwent surgery in June to remove tumors from his pancreas after being diagnosed with cancer a month earlier. His final term in the Senate was to expire in November 2010.
“Not even cancer could rob him of his sense of humor and spirit,” said former press aide Sarah Bascom, who announced King’s death Sunday on behalf of the family. “He was the Jim King that we all know and loved until the very end.”
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said in a statement: “You couldn’t help but love Jim King. He lived every day with such enthusiasm and joy. We mourn the loss of this great Floridian.”
A self-made millionaire from Jacksonville, King was elected Senate president in 2002 at a time of voter demands to shrink classroom size and create a pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds. “I find myself somewhere between the dog and the fire hydrant,” King said that year.
King, who built a personnel services business into a multimillion dollar enterprise, decided to jump into politics after years of complaining about “those idiot politicians” in Tallahassee.
In 1986 he ran for a state House seat in northeast Jacksonville. King won 56 percent of the vote, benefiting from the “coattails” of Republican Gov. Bob Martinez’s win at the top of the ticket.
Both men arrived just in time for the services tax fiasco in the 1987 legislative session.The measure would have extended Florida’s sales tax to a host of services. It was passed and then repealed weeks later after a barrage of criticism.
King, who was then part of a Republican minority in the Legislature, survived the political fallout.
Born on Oct. 30, 1939, King moved with his family from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Florida when he was a first grader.
He attended public school and community college in St. Petersburg and became the first person in his family to earn a high school diploma when he graduated from in 1957. He earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in business administration from Florida State.
King is survived by his wife, Linda Braddock King; daughters Monta Bolles of Tampa and Laurie Anne Dolan of Gainesville; and three grandchildren.
Memorial services will be at at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. John’s Cathedral in Jacksonville and at 2 p.m. Aug. 4 in the House Chambers at the Capitol in Tallahassee.