TAMPA — Jack Rudy, a corporate lawyer who served as interim Hillsborough state attorney during a tumultuous period in that office, died Sunday after an extended illness. He was 74.
Mr. Rudy, who served in the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam, worked as a federal prosecutor in the Watergate investigation and helped found the Tampa law firm of Bush Ross Gardner Warren & Rudy.
His family said he did not hesitate when, in 2000, then-Gov. Jeb Bush asked him to serve as interim state attorney following the suicide of Harry Lee Coe.
"It was his true calling to be a servant to the people," said his son, Jay, a federal prosecutor.
At that time, the office was reeling from Coe's death and allegations that Coe took $12,000 in loans from two employees and used his office computer to visit gambling websites.
Mr. Rudy provided a steady hand, telling each staffer what he expected as he tried to steer the office ahead, said Circuit Judge Greg Holder, a long-time friend.
"He set the standards as far as work ethic and integrity," said Holder.
During his five-month tenure, Mr. Rudy earned a reputation as someone who kept office business under tight wraps, offering only "no comments" to the press and generally requiring his staff to do the same. Some of his staff members said it was what the office needed.
"He came in and quietly took the reins and gave us some stability we needed," Robin Fuson, who then worked as chief of narcotics division in the office, told the Times in 2001.
Mr. Rudy returned to private practice in 2001 following the election of Mark Ober as Hillsborough state attorney. Holder said Mr. Rudy had taken the post knowing he would not run for the office himself.
"He just thought it'd be inappropriate to use a gubernatorial appointment as a stepping stone," Holder said. "That's the type of man he was."
Besides his son, Jay, Mr. Rudy is survived by his wife of 43 years, Pat; and a daughter, Robin.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at (813) 226-3374 or [email protected]