Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa legend Al Austin remembered in Saturday memorial service

TAMPA — It might have reminded Al Austin of a political convention had he been alive to witness it. Governors and mayors and politicians of every stripe gathered under one roof, even a Democrat or two.

This was Austin's kind of crowd.

Several hundred people gathered at a memorial service Saturday at the Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church in South Tampa to mark the passing of Austin, a Tampa developer and civic leader who died May 22 in his sleep of an apparent heart attack. He was 85.

The service was a reminder, if anyone needed one, that Austin was far more than the GOP fundraiser who was instrumental in bringing the 2012 Republican National Convention to Tampa and shaping both Tampa's politics and business life.

He was remembered as a good father, a good husband and a good friend with a passion for life.

"You have set such a wonderful example of what it means to be a husband and a father," said Austin's daughter, Amy Austin Guagliardo, reading a letter to her father. "You have provided us with so many incredible memories … You had so much passion for everything you did… .

"You will always be my Mr. Everything. I love you forever and ever."

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi paid their respects to Austin's wife, Beverly, and her family. The crowd included Scott's likely opponent in the gubernatorial race, Democrat Charlie Crist, and his wife, Carole.

Also attending the service were: Reps. Gus Bilirakis and Dennis Ross; former Florida Republican Party chairman Al Cardenas; Republican National Committee co-chairwoman Sharon Day; former Gov. Jeb Bush's ex-chief of staff Kathleen Shanahan; former Attorney General Bill McCollum; and former Gov. Bob Martinez, among others.

Martinez, recounting his memories of Austin during the service, said he had been Austin's tennis opponent for many years. He remembered how Austin talked nonstop politics on the 15-minute ride to the tennis court. And he laughed at the memory of how the ride back would be filled with talk of either tennis or politics, depending on who had won the match.

Martinez said the culmination of Austin's political career was landing the GOP convention for the city he helped build.

"Al, you did it all," Martinez said. "You spell success, family, work, politics and, yes, tennis."

Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco said he had knew Austin when both were younger men. "It's hard for me to believe he's gone," he said.

Greco recounted the work Austin had done for his community, his state and his country.

"Why was he so committed?" Greco said. "I found a (Bible) verse that told me why and describes him … 'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord.' "

Austin's life touched much of Tampa Bay during a 60-year career that included a stint as finance chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. He was an icon in Tampa's business community who began erecting office buildings off West Shore Boulevard in what had been orange groves and cow pastures.

Today, West Shore is Tampa's highest-cachet corporate enclave and the largest office market in Tampa.

Austin also worked to keep MacDill Air Force Base open in a time of defense cutbacks that killed other military installations, and he served as the head of the board that operates Tampa International Airport. He also led the University of Tampa board for a time and helped the school raise money.

Earlier in the week, Tampa City Council Charlie Miranda dubbed Austin "Mr. Everything," a theme picked up at the memorial service.

"Rest in peace, dad," said Austin's daughter, Ann Austin Tatomir. "You really were Mr. Everything."

Times staff writer Adam C. Smith contributed to this report. William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected]

Tampa legend Al Austin remembered in Saturday memorial service 05/31/14 [Last modified: Saturday, May 31, 2014 11:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Days were lost': Why Puerto Rico is still suffering a month after Hurricane Maria


    MAUNABO, PUERTO RICO — Before Hurricane Maria tore through the rest of this island, it came to Mayor Jorge Márquez's home.

    A man wades through a flooded road, past a boat, in the Toa Ville community two days after the impact of Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Because of flooding, thousands of people are being evacuated from Toa Baja after the municipal government opened the gates of the Rio La Plata Dam. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti) CGPR130
  2. With college looming, Channel Drive band finds a way to keep on rocking

    Human Interest

    A year and a half.

    That's the time Channel Drive, a band made up of local high school students, had to organize concerts, create music, produce an album and perform in front of audiences before three-fourths of the group were to leave for college.

    One of Channel Drive’s favorite venues is the Brass Mug in North Tampa. Here, from left to right, Colby Williams, Jacob Fleming and Ricardo Ponte command the stage while Alex Carr handles drums.
  3. Florida's unemployment hits 3.8 percent, lowest since April 2007

    Economic Development

    Florida's unemployment rate continued its downward tear in September to hit 3.8 percent — the lowest since April 2007 — as the state added 28,000 jobs over the month.

    Florida's unemployment rate dropped from 4 percent in August to 3.8 percent in September. Pictured is 
Shantia Blackmon (left),from St. Petersburg, talking with Jocelyn Kelley from North Carolina at a Pinellas Schools County Job Fair in June. | [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Study: When you die, your brain knows you're dead


    Have you ever wondered what happens after you die?

    According to a new study from NYU, researchers say that a person's brain may function after their death. [iStockPhoto]

  5. Gradebook podcast: On HB 7069, with Palm Beach schools superintendent Robert Avossa


    After months of discussion, several Florida school districts filed suit against the Legislature over the contentious HB 7069, calling parts of it unconstitutional. At the same time, some of them also sought grant funding established in the same measure. The Palm Beach County school district did both. Superintendent …

    Palm Beach superintendent Robert Avossa