July 23, 2014

Florida Icon

Icon: Ed Price

State Senator 1958-66; past president, Florida Chamber of Commerce; former executive vice president, Tropicana Products; age 92; Bradenton

Art Levy | 8/1/2010


[Photo: Mark Wemple]
» Running for public office today is totally different. In my day, television was no big deal. You’d go door to door and meet people. You’d give speeches on the back of a flatbed truck in some parking lot somewhere, and all the people would sit in their cars and honk the horn if they liked you.

» I was a Democrat and I’m still a Democrat, but I’m not a Yellow Dog Democrat. I don’t vote all Democratic. I vote for the best person.

» One thing I’ve always been against is the power that lobbyists have over legislators.

» You have to be able to oppose something when you know it’s wrong, even if you might be the only one doing it. It takes courage to do that.

» When I served, it was the time of the pork chop legislators. They were rural, very conservative, mainly from north Florida. The pork choppers had a blood oath that they would vote for any bill that another pork chopper put in, period. There were just enough of us — they called us the lamb choppers — to uphold Gov. Collins’ vetoes of some of their legislation.

» People thought the pork choppers were a bunch of bad people. They were not. They were basically representing what they thought was best for their people. While I didn’t agree with a lot of them, it wasn’t like we couldn’t do business. We joined hands and formed a coalition, for example, to build junior colleges throughout the state of Florida. We might fight each other on the floor, but afterwards we could go out to dinner.

» Reubin Askew asked me to join the Florida Citrus Commission. The commission had some problems that had to be straightened out. I told him I’d do it on one condition: Don’t tell me what to do. I went there to eliminate politics from the commission, and I think I did that.

» Anita Bryant, she got all involved in the gay situation, which was a bad mistake on her part. Before that, she did a super job for the citrus industry. She could sell orange juice.

» It must have been around 1963. I got the representatives from the counties affected to join with me and write a bill to appropriate $250,000 to go to work on this one thing, red tide. The goal was to study red tide, find out what was causing it and then do everything we could to prevent it. We passed the bill, and the governor signed it. The marine biologists went to work, but the red tide, it still comes.

» I was a pilot stationed in England during the war. I flew a B-17. All my missions were over Germany. You were getting shot at every day. It was not unusual to come back with 300 holes in your airplane. I thought war was a bad thing and I still do. You hate to be a part of dropping bombs because somebody is getting killed, but I just wanted to see it get done, get it over with and get home.

» In Cologne, Germany, there’s a cathedral, and they told us to do everything we could to keep from bombing that cathedral. We didn’t. Later, I went over to Germany for Tropicana to sell the first orange juice that was ever sold in bottles in Germany, and I saw the cathedral. It was still standing there in good shape.

» Our economy today, we could take a lesson by going back and looking at what Roosevelt did to pull us out of the deep, dark days of the Depression. Create the jobs so people can start buying. You can’t spend if you don’t have a job. And the banks have to start lending.

» We didn’t have a four-lane highway from southwest Florida to Miami. There was no way to get there from here. The other coast already had a turnpike, and we wanted to utilize some of those federal funds for Interstate 75. We got the chambers from Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Broward, Dade and so forth and we got the legislative delegation and we got the press all working together. And we never stopped working until they built that road.

» Even though I strongly opposed renaming Manatee Community College (to State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota), I still support the institution because we need the college badly. But I wish they hadn’t thrown away 52 years of tradition. I worked real hard, along with many others, to get that college put in Manatee County. I would have preferred calling it Manatee State College.

» Actually, I’m still involved in local organizations, but the last year and a half, I took care of my wife 24/7. I was pretty well worn out towards the end. We were married for 62 years, and I thank the lord that we had 62 years together. They were wonderful years. The end, it wasn’t easy to handle, but I just made up my mind to always remember the good things we had in our life and be thankful.

» I still keep an office in downtown Bradenton, and I don’t plan on closing it. My landlord wanted to have at least a two-year lease, and I said OK but with one caveat: If I become incompetent or die, then the lease gets canceled. I’ll keep the office open as long as I am.

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