Thursday, June 21, 2018
Opinion

Pam Iorio: Remembering the Tampa Tribune

The first half of the twentieth century saw the city of Tampa grow from a frontier village to a medium-size metropolis, experiencing challenges that set it apart from other cities in Florida. Tampa's reputation grew as a gambling mecca where lawlessness was condoned by a wink and a payoff to public officials. At the heart of the gambling industry was a game of chance, imported from Cuba. It was called bolita. Bolita so dominated Tampa politics for decades that noted historians concluded, "Many observers staunchly believe that during these decades (the 1920s through the 1940s) there was not a single honest election in Tampa/Hillsborough County."

It took a persistent and skilled reporter, along with the crusading spirit of a newspaper publisher, and attention from Washington, to finally break bolita's grip on Tampa's public officials. Jock Murray, known by the byline J.A. Murray, was chosen by Tampa Morning Tribune managing editor Virgil M. "Red" Newton to ferret out the connection between bolita and the city's elected and appointed officials. Newton's crusade in the latter part of the 1940s led to Tampa hearings in 1950 by the Senate Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce chaired by Democratic Sen. Estes Kefauver.

It was the Tampa Tribune that helped move the community from one based on cronyism, factional politics and fraudulent elections to a more progressive, professional and modern city. The Tampa Tribune not only chronicled the city's growth, but shaped it as well.

Pam Iorio was mayor of Tampa from 2003 to 2011.

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