August 30, 2014

In Memoriam

Farewell to these famous Floridians

The past year has seen a number of notable Floridians pass away.

Amy Keller | 12/19/2011

SEPT. 16
James Kent "Jimmy" Leeward, 74

Veteran air racer and stunt pilot Jimmy Leeward was killed Sept. 16 when his modified P-51 Mustang crashed during an air show near Reno, Nev. Ten spectators were also killed and 69 were injured when the plane crashed into the grandstands after an apparent mechanical failure. Leeward was a thrill seeker whose skills as a stunt pilot were featured in films such as Amelia and Cloud Dancer. He owned the Leeward Air Ranch in Ocala.

James Kent Leeward
[Photo: The Reno Gazette-Journal]

SEPT. 28
Gov. Claude R. Kirk Jr., 85

In 1967, Claude Kirk became Florida's 36th governor and the first Republican since Reconstruction to hold the office. He helped draft and enact a new state constitution, signed legislation that helped bring Walt Disney World to Florida and created a statewide environmental protection agency. A colorful figure with a penchant for shaking up the establishment, he sparked considerable controversy when he hired the Wackenhut private detective agency to help wage his "war on crime" in Florida — an effort that led to the creation of the agency known today as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Claude R. Kirk Jr.
[Photo: AP]

"I'd like to be remembered, period. I would hope as somebody who saw the opportunity to change government if it needs to be changed."

— Former Gov. Claude R. Kirk Jr. in a May 2010 interview with Florida Trend

SEPT. 28
Nick Navarro, 81

Nick Navarro
Former Broward County Sheriff Nick Navarro achieved celebrity status when he allowed film crews from the television show "Cops" to trail his deputies during the show's inaugural season and ordered the arrest of rap group Two Live Crew on obscenity charges. During his eight years in office (1985-92), the controversial lawman doubled the size of Broward's deputy force and increased its budget from $75 million to $200 million. After retiring, he founded and ran Navarro Security Group, a private security firm. He died of complications from cancer.



OCT. 8
J. Crayton Pruitt, 79

J. Crayton Pruitt
J. Crayton Pruitt, a St. Petersburg cardiothoracic surgeon, developer and philanthropist, invented important medical devices — the Pruitt-Inahara Carotid Shunt that maintains blood flow to the brain during carotid artery surgery and a device called the Pruitt Occlusion Catheter that flushes out blood clots and arteries in the lower extremities. In 1995, Pruitt suffered a heart attack and received a heart transplant at Shands Hospital at the University of Florida. He showed his gratitude by making several large gifts to the university, including a $10-million endowment for two professorships at the Department of Biomedical Engineering. At the time of his death, Pruitt was building a golf resort development called the Reserve at Sweetwater Estuary on 1,291 acres he owned in Taylor County. He died after a heart attack.


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