TAMPA — When John Brabson Jr. arrived in Tampa in 1975, a prominent business leader encouraged him to get involved with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and its upstart program Leadership Tampa.
The guidance Brabson received came full circle Thursday when he received Leadership Tampa Alumni's prestigious Parke Wright III Award, an honor named for the man who gave him that initial advice.
"I can honestly say when I came here in 1975 Parke Wright III became one of my mentors," said Brabson, 74. "That has a lot to do with my spirit of involvement."
Brabson, who came to Tampa from North Carolina, rose to prominence as the president of Peoples Gas, eventually guiding its sale to TECO Energy in 1997.
He also served as the chairman of the 115-year-old, family-owned Lykes Bros., marrying into the local conglomerate's fourth generation. He chaired the Tampa Bay Partnership and most recently, served as CEO of Lykes Insurance.
Brabson retired from his latest role with Lykes in December, but says he continues to remain involved in the community, including serving as chairman of the board of directors of Tampa General Hospital.
"It's hard to stop," Brabson said. "There's a time and place for everything and I think it was time for me to retire, but I want to continue to do more community work, more board work where I can have an impact on the strategic level instead of the operational level."
The group, which honored Brabson at its annual luncheon Thursday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, presents the Wright Award each year to an alumnus who has demonstrated leadership and made a difference in the Tampa Bay community.
In addition to his business achievements, Brabson's community service includes serving on the boards of the American Cancer Society, St. Joseph's Hospital, United Way Suncoast and Metropolitan Ministries, just to name a few.
"Our recipient is the epitome of a Southern gentleman, family man, philanthropist and businessman," said emcee Jack Harris in making the announcement. "The depth of his impact on our community has been as extraordinary as it is rare."
The announcement caught Brabson off guard, as did a surprise appearance by his wife, Tilda, who told him earlier in the morning she had to attend an event at the Palma Ceia Country Club.
Brabson encouraged the other leaders to maintain its leadership, and he complimented Tampa as a place where its easy for people to get involved in the community.
Contact Ernest Hooper at [email protected]