Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Denis J. Quilligan

Gumshoe Denis Quilligan faced down corruption, organized crime

ST. PETERSBURG — Because of his laid-back demeanor and drawl, colleagues sometimes compared Denis Quilligan to former NFL quarterback and wisecracking broadcaster Don Meredith. The people he helped put in prison might remember someone a bit less folksy.

During his 23 years with the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, the last 19 as chief investigator, Mr. Quilligan did the legwork on some of the most high-profile cases in the area's history. Guilty parties included organized crime figures and three county commissioners convicted in a zoning payoff scandal.

He moonlighted with a trombone. In the 1950s, he formed the Jailhouse Seven, which consisted of his first wife, three cops, three newspaper reporters and the city's dog catcher.

Mr. Quilligan died March 29 in Blountville, Tenn. He was 89. The family announced his death in an obituary Sunday.

"He was not only the chief investigator, he was one of (then State Attorney) James Russell's closest confidantes," said lawyer George Tragos, a former assistant state attorney. "If Denny had an opinion, it really mattered."

At a lean 6 foot 5, with a cigar and a blazing stare, Mr. Quilligan looked the part of the G-man he might have become. He graduated from the FBI's National Academy in 1955.

People wanted to talk to him.

"As an investigator, the way you get information is to have the sort of personality where you can talk to them and they will give you the information voluntarily," said Allen Allweiss, a former assistant state attorney. "He had a way about him."

Allweiss first worked with Mr. Quilligan in the early 1970s, then against him after leaving the State Attorney's Office. When Allweiss' client, Pinellas County Commissioner George Brumfield, was convicted in 1974 of taking bribes, the two sides worked together as Brumfield agreed to wear a wire.

"That's when the house of cards began to fall," said Richard Mensh, former chief assistant state attorney. Commissioners A. Oliver McEachern and William Dockerty were convicted of corruption charges. Several officials in Clearwater, Largo and the beaches were also convicted.

Denis J. Quilligan was born in Granite City, Ill., in 1923. He joined the Merchant Marine during World War II and married Gloria Davis in 1945. They had two children.

He joined the St. Petersburg Police Department in 1947, was promoted to detective two years later, then to detective sergeant in 1956. He went to the State Attorney's Office a year later.

Mr. Quilligan took a leave in 1964 to run for sheriff, winning the Republican nomination but losing to incumbent Don Genung. He remained with the State Attorney's Office through 1980, then became a private investigator for 15 years.

Mr. Quilligan's second marriage, to the former Marilyn Oldridge, lasted 40 years, until her death in December.

He leaves behind a legacy as one of the best. "Most assistant state attorneys stay a few years," Mensh said. "I stayed year after year, with Denny as my role model — his loyalty, his dedication and his moxie."

Researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

.Biography

Denis J. Quilligan

Born: April 4, 1923

Died: March 29, 2013

Survivors: son, Denis J. Quilligan Jr.; daughter, Dawn Joanne Frantzen; numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Gumshoe Denis Quilligan faced down corruption, organized crime 06/18/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 1:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rick Baker debuts new campaign ad to woo younger voters

    Blogs

    Former mayor Rick Baker's campaign unveiled a reboot of sorts Tuesday with the debut of a new TV ad.

    In a new ad, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker surprises a group of people in a restaurant who are talking about his accomplishments. He says, "You ain't seen nothing yet."
  2. Editorial: DOT listens, adjusts on I-275 plans in Tampa

    Editorials

    Florida continues to improve its plan for modernizing the interstate system in Tampa Bay. The Florida Department of Transportation has unveiled four new options for rebuilding I-275 near downtown Tampa, and some of them would ditch previous plans for toll lanes downtown while keeping express lanes for faster, …

    State officials are re-evaluating parts of I-4 and I-275 in Tampa as part of a supplemental environmental impact study, or SEIS. 
  3. College basketball scandal dips into Tampa Bay

    Preps

    Tuesday's national college basketball scandal has recruiting ties to Tampa Bay.

    In this March 15, 2012, file photo, San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland, left, talks during NCAA college basketball practice in Columbus, Ohio. Bland was identified in court papers, and is among 10 people facing federal charges in Manhattan federal court, Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File]
  4. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Lunch guest eat at Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Times files.
  5. Republican leader McConnell pulls the plug on latest Obamacare repeal effort

    WASHINGTON --- Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday officially pulled the plug on the latest plan to repeal the health care law, telling senators they will not vote on the measure and effectively admitting defeat in the last-gasp drive to fulfill a core promise of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, after the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary. DeVos was approved by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) DCSA119