Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Phil Lewis, former Florida Senate president, dies

TALLAHASSEE — Phil Lewis, a folksy and respected Democrat who served as president of the Florida Senate from 1978-1980, died Tuesday at his home in West Palm Beach. He was 82.

Mr. Lewis, who served in the Legislature from 1970 to 1980, helped to create the South Florida Water Management District, served on the Board of Regents for higher education and was a cofounder of Florida TaxWatch, a group that monitors state spending and tax policy.

"Florida has lost one of its true statesmen," TaxWatch chairman Marshall Criser III said Thursday. "Sen. Lewis long held the belief that government and business could work together to ensure that the citizens of Florida would be served in the most diligent and practical manner."

Mr. Lewis — a fiscal conservative, devout Catholic and father of nine children — was admired by legislators in both parties and was affectionately known as "Uncle Phil" in the state Capitol. He defeated Sen. Jack Gordon, a liberal Democrat from Miami Beach, for the Senate presidency.

He was Senate president during the first two years of Bob Graham's tenure as governor.

"Phil Lewis' life has stood the test of time," Graham told the Palm Beach Post. "He leaves us a proud legacy and a model of what 'good citizen' means in America."

A native of Omaha, Neb., and the wealthy president of a Riviera Beach real estate investment firm, Mr. Lewis gained notoriety in the mid-1970s. He defiantly refused to comply with Gov. Reubin Askew's so-called Sunshine Amendment to the state Constitution that required elected officials to fully disclose their income as a safeguard against conflicts of interest.

A lawsuit seeking to invalidate the amendment failed in the federal courts.

Mr. Lewis considered financial disclosure a serious invasion of personal privacy, but it did not lessen Askew's admiration for him.

"Phil Lewis is one of my dearest friends, a great guy, and he has strong feelings about that," Askew said in a 1998 interview with Florida State University.

Mr. Lewis is survived by his wife, Maryellen Howley, seven children and 13 grandchildren.

Services will be held from 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Quattlebaum Funeral Home in West Palm Beach, and a funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Julianna Catholic Church in West Palm Beach.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Phil Lewis, former Florida Senate president, dies 09/06/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 6, 2012 11:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Mayor Rick Kriseman says election is about moving forward


    Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office  Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward..

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally
  2. Mulberry teens, 15 and 18, killed when cars collide at Plant City intersection


    MULBERRY — The local high school has an enrollment of 1,000 but to some it feels like a tight-knit family. Many of Mulberry High School's students have spent all of their school days within the city limits, said principal Michael Young.

    Pepe Salgado, 18, was killed Friday along with his sister Frinzi Salgado-Diaz, 15, in a car crash in Plant City. They were passengers in a car driven by their cousin Edilberto Nava-Marcos, 18, who was transported to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center and was listed in critical condition. All three lived in Mulberry and attended Mulberry High School. [Polk County School District]
  3. Assisted living facility owner accused of sexually assaulting employee in Pinellas


    ST. PETERSBURG — An assisted living facility owner was arrested Thursday on charges that he sexually assaulted an employee, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

  4. Find serenity at Grand Cayman Island's Cemetery Beach



    Hey, cruisers, if you've been to Hell and back, snuggled with the stingrays and taken photos with the turtles at the Cayman Turtle Centre, you might be looking for something different on your next trip. (Guilty!)

    Good snorkeling can be found off shore at Cemetery Beach in Grand Cayman.
  5. Editorial: Honoring a solemn sacrifice


    For a nation still slogging away in Afghanistan, Iraq and other war zones across the globe, this Memorial Day holiday marks the latest commemoration of sacrifice abroad, of uncertainty over America's role in securing the globe and of the country's great debt to its military families. The peace of yesterday is almost …