TALLAHASSEE — The late Sen. Jim King wants to be a Seminole for eternity. And his beloved alma mater is happy to oblige.
Sen. King, the popular Republican lawmaker who passed away Sunday after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer, will be cremated and interred at the year-old King Life Sciences Building on the campus of Florida State University, family spokesman Gus Corbella confirmed Monday.
FSU officials dedicated the $55 million building to Sen. King in September in honor of his help in securing state funding over the years for biomedical research and other campus projects.
"He proudly always said one of the reasons he was so successful in life was the education he got there," said Corbella, a lobbyist and longtime family friend who served as Sen. King's chief of staff for 10 years. "When you think about it, where else would he ever be?"
Sen. King will be the first person interred on a Florida public campus since lawmakers this spring passed legislation (SB926) allowing for university to build "columbariums," permanent structures that hold the ashes of alumni.
University of Florida officials pushed for the law at the request of alumni, prompting Sen. King — ever the FSU devotee, ever the funnyman — to call it "the dead Gator bill."
Sen. Thad Altman, sponsor of the law, said it's fitting that King be the first to benefit from it.
"He always was one step ahead of the Gators," said Altman, R-Melbourne. "And now with this, he's one step ahead again."
Sen. King, 69, earned bachelor's and master's degrees from FSU after graduating from St. Petersburg Junior College in 1959. He settled in Jacksonville, where he made millions selling off his successful personnel management business to Wackenhut Corp.
Sen. King spent much of his 23 years in politics pursuing improvements in higher education, health care and cancer research. He helped FSU establish a partnership with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, where he sought treatment after he was diagnosed in May with pancreatic cancer.
Sen. King lost his own parents to cancer and later sponsored legislation establishing a biomedical research program in their names. Since 1999, the program has provided millions in grants to Florida universities, including FSU for research into smoking-related diseases.
The plan is for Sen. King to be interred with the ashes of his beloved Labrador retrievers Valentine and Gemini. Until 2007, state law forbade the mingling of pet and human remains. Sen. King sponsored legislation that now allows the practice.
FSU spokeswoman Jill Ellish said details are being worked out, "but we plan to honor the wishes of Sen. King."
Shannon Colavecchio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 224-7263.