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A gentle, tireless statesman

Those who admired his statesmanship often thought former Democratic legislator Edgar H. Price Jr. could have — and should have — been elected governor of Florida.

Price, who died Saturday at age 94, did not seek higher office after his eight years fighting for civil rights, public education and other causes in the state Senate.

Known for his gentle, even-handed personality, Price could also be dogged and relentless regarding the causes he was passionate about — especially his determination to improve education, housing and health care for the poor and oppressed.

In 1977, more than a decade after Price left the Legislature, the Tampa Bay Times named him one of Florida's 10 most powerful people.

After serving as a combat pilot in World War II, the University of Florida graduate settled in Bradenton. Price managed a flower farm and became head of the Florida Gladiolus Growers Association. In 1959, he began a long career as an executive at the citrus juice giant, Tropicana Products Inc., where he was a close associate of its founder, Anthony Rossi.

Price served in the state Senate from 1958 to 1966. During his first term, his district included Sarasota and Charlotte counties.

As a legislator, he helped create Florida's community college system, expand the university system, expedite the construction of Interstate 75 south of Tampa and, most notably, fight segregation.

Price voted to uphold Gov. LeRoy Collins' veto of a bill that would have closed public schools that dared to integrate.

"He was a passionate guy in terms of doing the right thing," former Gov. Reubin Askew, who also regarded Price as a close friend, said in 1999. "There are two kinds of people I know who run for office: people who run to hold the job and people who run to do the job. He was the kind who ran to do the job."

Memorial arrangements have yet to be announced.

A gentle, tireless statesman 12/04/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 9:50pm]
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