TAMPA — John Land ran his home-building business the way he ran his life — straight ahead and tough. He got in people's faces, from subcontractors to the governor.
Usually, he got his way.
Tough and uncompromising didn't mean ruthless, and Mr. Land occasionally revealed a softer side. Mr. Land, who built more than 2,500 homes in South Tampa, died July 31. He was 84.
"You always knew where you stood with John," said Matt Jetton, 84, the developer who created Original Carrollwood.
As an 18-year-old radio technician aboard the USS Pensacola during World War II, Mr. Land learned some harsh realities. The cruiser was bombed and torpedoed numerous times by the Japanese. Fellow sailors and officers died.
He moved to Tampa in 1954 and enrolled in Tampa Business College. There he met Peggy Charlton, a fellow student 10 years his junior. They married despite their contrasting demeanors: Southern and genteel vs. Midwestern and brusque.
Crews building Land-Lackey Estates, the one of first subdivisions near MacDill Air Force Base, finished three starter homes a week. Early buyers got to choose their own wallpaper and carpet.
In the late 1960s he caught the eye of then-Gov. Claude Kirk, who wanted to appoint him to the state's licensing board. Kirk nearly reneged on his promise, sending word that Mr. Land would have to wait — but changed his mind after Mr. Land responded with an unprintable tirade.
"If someone promised him something, he was entitled to it," said his wife, Peggy.
He held world leaders to their promises, too. Once a diehard Republican, he attended Richard Nixon's 1972 inauguration. He grew disenchanted with his party over time and supported Obama in 2008.
"He felt they had gotten greedy," his wife said. "They were outsourcing jobs overseas, always looking at the bottom line. We did well by working hard."
Mr. Land was born in White County, Ill., on land his family had owned for 200 years. He was a direct descendant of Civil War Gen. John A. Logan on the Union side, whose order helped establish Memorial Day.
At least twice, he paid for the funerals for construction workers. "He never looked for any type of notice on that," said his son, Tal Land, 54. "He just did it because it was the right thing to do."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]