Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Robert E. Curry

Robert E. 'Bob' Curry, former Hillsborough County commissioner acquitted of corruption, dies at 78

TAMPA — It was a scandal that left a meteor-like imprint on Hillsborough County politics.

Investigations in the mid 1980s led to a series of arrests of county commissioners, developers, businessmen and lawyers on a variety of corruption charges.

In 1985, former Hillsborough County commissioner Bob Curry and two other one-time commissioners were charged with racketeering, fraud and extortion. They were accused of taking bribes in exchange for votes.

In all, 25 people faced charges in one of the county's biggest corruption trials ever.

Mr. Curry was acquitted, and finished out his career running a real estate company. He spent a peaceful semiretirement working around the house and visiting his daughter's ranch. Mr. Curry, a cordial man who struck some as an unlikely political candidate, died Saturday, of liver cancer. He was 78.

"He wasn't the type of person you would think would get into political life," said former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco. "He wasn't outgoing and so forth. He was very quiet for someone in that business."

Opponents of Jefferson High's sports teams in the late 1940s saw a tougher side. A sharp-shooting guard, Mr. Curry made the all-city basketball team and the all-state football team, and set the school's pole-vaulting record.

"He wanted to win," said former Tampa Mayor Bill Poe, who played basketball for Hillsborough High while Mr. Curry starred at Jefferson. "He was a real competitor. Just because you're a friend didn't mean a thing."

Carolyn Curry was a cheerleader at Jefferson when she met her future husband, who was four years her senior and in the Navy.

"Another cheerleader said, 'Do you want to meet Bob Curry?'

"I said, 'Oh, my!' " Carolyn recalled.

They married two months later. Mr. Curry served four years in Japan and Korea.

Back home, and with a degree from the University of Tampa, he supervised community centers for the county's parks department. In 1965, the County Commission made him Hillsborough's first recreation director.

He won an election to the County Commission in 1972.

"He was tenacious," said Carl Carpenter, a former state legislator who had served with Mr. Curry on the County Commission. "If he believed in something, he wouldn't take no until the votes were there to tell him no."

But often, Mr. Curry had just enough votes to get what he wanted.

He sided so often with fellow Commissioners Jerry Bowmer and Charles Bean, federal prosecutors spoke of a three-man bloc which, they alleged, took more than a dozen bribes.

In 1979, toward the end of his second term as commissioner, Mr. Curry's personal life began to unravel. Police charged him with resisting arrest without violence. Mr. Curry admitted arguing with his wife but denied shoving police officers. He was acquitted.

Later that year, he was arrested for driving under the influence. Mr. Curry stepped down as commission chairman but retained his seat. He announced plans to join Alcoholics Anonymous.

Mr. Curry lost his commission seat in 1980. He opened a real-estate company, Florida Midstate Realtors. But his associations with the County Commission were far from over. Federal investigators were zeroing in on current and former Hillsborough commissioners, suspecting widespread corruption.

"The county was basically under siege for two years with investigations. The county was paralyzed," said former Commissioner Jan Platt, who served alongside Mr. Curry in the 1970s.

Mr. Curry, who according to his wife had given up drinking a few years earlier, emerged battered but a free man. "It's been a tough ordeal," he said after his acquittal. "But I knew I hadn't done anything wrong."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

.Biography

Robert E. Curry

Born: Feb. 26, 1931.

Died: Feb. 13, 2010.

Survivors: Wife Carolyn Curry; daughter Carolyn Nash and her husband William; daughter Denise Heldt; son Robert E. Curry II; brothers Ormand "Bud" Curry and his wife Becky, and Derrell Curry and his wife Norma; and two grandchildren.

Service: Visitation

6 to 8 p.m. Thursday,

service 3 p.m. Friday;

Garden of Memories

Funeral Home, 4207 E Lake Ave., Tampa.

Robert E. 'Bob' Curry, former Hillsborough County commissioner acquitted of corruption, dies at 78 02/16/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 18, 2010 3:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Carlton: A moment of sanity when citizens finally said no

    Courts

    If you were looking for some small sign of sanity in the world, here's one courtesy of the people of Tampa and Hillsborough County.

    The Confederate memorial statue outside the old Hillsborough courthouse is now boxed up in plywood to prevent vandalism. Private donors have ponied up money to have the statue relocated to a cemetery. [JIM DAMASKE  |  Times]
  2. Review: Jason Aldean fires up a country-dude party at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre

    Blogs

    Country music has a dude problem.

    I’m not talking about the proliferation of mindless bro country over the past half-decade, nor am I referring to the fact that most of Nashville’s best music these days comes not from said bros, from female singers and songwriters.

    Jason Aldean performed at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Aug. 18, 2018.
  3. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police

    Blogs

    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

  4. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot

    News

    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of WESH.com