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George E. Lackman| 1931-2008

Self-made business executive George Lackman dies at 77

George Lackman supervised building of the Jose Gasparilla ship.

George Lackman supervised building of the Jose Gasparilla ship.

PALMETTO BEACH — George E. Lackman wasn't just a self-made man. He was a self-made Renaissance man.

The son of a merchant seaman, Mr. Lackman grew up in the Palmetto Beach neighborhood and began his working life as a laborer in a shipyard.

In the years to come, he would accomplish much. He became vice president of that same shipyard, co-founded a bank and became its president, built Tampa's most famous ship, invented a revolutionary boat propeller that championship bass fisherman still use today and served as chairman of the Hillsborough County Hospital Board.

He did all that without ever having graduated from college.

"He was definitely a self-made man," said his daughter Nancy Lackman.

Mr. Lackman passed away March 29 from mesothelioma, a disease caused by exposure to asbestos. He was 77 years old.

In his formative years, he set his sights on becoming a mechanical engineer and, soon after he graduated from Jefferson High School, he hitchhiked to Atlanta to attend Georgia Tech.

The draft and the Korean War ended his college career. After his military stint, he came back to Tampa. He was cruising down Bayshore Boulevard one night when he spotted a pretty girl in another car. They exchanged hand signals and then pulled into the Colonnade Restaurant.

They liked each other immediately, but she already had plans to go to California and become a stewardess. He never forgot her, though, and some 15 years later — after she had been married and divorced and moved back to Tampa — she became his wife.

Mr. Lackman was a mechanic's assistant at Tampa Ship Repair and Dry Dock who worked his way through the ranks to become the company's vice president. Among the projects he oversaw were construction of submarines for Disney World and the building of the Jose Gasparilla. Because he knew that ship better than anyone else in Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, he became the Krewe's "sailing master," piloting the ship in Hillsborough Bay for the annual Gasparilla invasion from the 1960s into the mid 1990s.

After moving to Odessa, Mr. Lackman, along with other community leaders, recognized the need for a bank in that area. They started Citrus Park Bank, and Mr. Lackman became its president. He ended his banking career as vice president of corporate development for First Union Bank, which had acquired the bank he co-founded.

Mr. Lackman always loved fishing, and together with bass fishing legend Doug Hannon, he invented a new kind of motor that enabled bass fishers to boat into weeds — where the bass usually are — without getting entangled. The engine remains popular today.

He was always heavily involved in community affairs and served on countless boards and committees. He chaired the county medical board at a time when Tampa General Hospital was in the midst of a financial crisis and has been cited as instrumental in saving the hospital.

"He did this all because he had the vision and the energy to get things done," his daughter said.

He retired, finally, in the late 1990s and in his last years spent much of his spare time aboard his 42-foot yacht. When he wasn't at the helm of his own boat, he often piloted boats for his friends.

"He had friends with mega-yachts, and they would ask him to pilot their boats," his daughter said. "One of the deckhands at the yacht club said he thought my father had logged more sea miles than everyone else in the yacht club combined."

Mr. Lackman's mesothelioma was diagnosed several years ago, but he remained active and healthy until about two months ago, enjoying life right up until the end.

"We always teased him about being the oldest living Boy Scout," his daughter said. "He was by-the-book, so straightforward. But at the same time, he had the most wonderful sense of humor."

Besides his daughter, Mr. Lackman is survived by his wife, Patricia, son Peter, sisters Betty Landers, Linda Morgan and Patsy Hutson, brothers Michael Lackman and Conrad Lackman and two grandchildren.

Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have passed away. He can be reached at mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

Self-made business executive George Lackman dies at 77 04/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 5:01pm]
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