TALLAHASSEE — Sen. Jim King's final exit from the Capitol was just as he would have wanted it: filled with more laughter than tears, more camaraderie than divisiveness — and plenty of talk about "adult beverages."
Dozens of current and former lawmakers joined King's loved ones in the House chambers Tuesday to remember King, the long-serving lawmaker who died July 26 of pancreatic cancer. They remembered a "larger than life" man whose political wisdom, mischievous wit and voracious appetite made him beloved and successful across party lines.
"Jim was unique: He was a character who had great character," said former Sen. Rod Smith, D-Gainesville. "The unfiltered Jim King was a pure joy to observe. He was a political figure with all of our foibles, but all of our best instincts, exaggerated to the proportion of his girth. I loved that man."
The 90-minute memorial service was a tribute to King the lawmaker, whose legacy was giving Floridians the right to refuse life-prolonging medical care. But more than that, it was a fitting goodbye to King the man, whose rollicking personality brought levity and perspective to a process that often takes itself too seriously.
"We will always recall Jim King resonating with the joy of a boy and leading with the wisdom of a man," Smith said.
Sen. Dennis Jones, King's best friend of 25 years, recalled the time King walked in — "late, of course" — to a required workshop on sexual harassment in the workplace.
King quipped, "I've heard this is a great place to pick up chicks."
King served in the House and Senate for 23 years, including two as Senate president. A Rockefeller Republican, he was strongly pro-business on fiscal issues but moderate on social matters such as abortion. King sponsored legislation dealing with everything from cancer research and carry-out wine to pet owners' right to be buried with their pets' ashes. But it was his beliefs about how sick people should spend their final days that became his legacy. Sen. Jones, R-Seminole, was with King in the hours before he died.
He said King wore his short-sleeved sport shirt with the Florida Senate symbol. And he asked for one last "adult beverage."
"We celebrated a communion of sorts. No wine, no wafers," Jones recalled, his voice breaking. "Just a sip of his favorite beverage: Bacardi. He knew this was a fight he could not win. But he was resolute and upbeat."