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Guy Botts, 78, Barnett holding unit founder

Published Oct. 8, 2005

Guy Warren Botts, a lawyer and founder of Barnett Banks of Florida Inc. holding company, died at his home on Friday. He was 78.

Botts was president and chairman of Barnett from 1963 until 1983. During that time, the banking company grew from $300-million in assets to $11-billion, according to a news release from Barnett Banks Inc.

Bob Stickler, a spokesman for Barnett Banks Inc., said Friday Botts died of unknown causes.

Botts founded the current Barnett Banks holding company as a vehicle to expand into other Florida counties in the mid-'60s. Florida banking law at that time restricted individual banks from branching outside of their counties.

William Barnett opened the first bank in Jacksonville in 1877.

Using the holding company to acquire and run banks in different counties, Botts laid the foundation for what is Florida's largest banking company today, with $38-billion in assets.

"Guy Botts was a very innovative businessman who is the founder of banking in Florida as we know it today," said Charles E. Rice, Barnett chairman and chief executive officer. "Under his leadership, Barnett became a formidable competitor in the banking industry."

Botts earned his law degree from the University of Florida in 1937. He then joined a Jacksonville law firm, where he practiced law for the next 26 years. By the time he left for Barnett, Botts had become the senior partner at the firm, then known as Botts, Mahoney, Hadlow, Chambers & Adams.

After retiring as chairman of Barnett Banks of Florida Inc., Botts formed a new law firm, Culverhouse & Botts, with Hugh Culverhouse, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The firm has offices in Jacksonville and Tampa.

Botts recently established the Guy W. Botts scholarship at the University of Florida law school.

Botts drafted the charter of Jacksonville University and became a trustee in 1938, serving as chairman for two separate terms. He was instrumental in establishing a permanent home for the school.

Botts was a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, a member of the Governor's Economic Advisory Committee, director of Gulf United Corp. and a member of the Florida Council of 100.

Botts is survived by his wife, Suzanne; a daughter, Edith Fawsett; and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Monday at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Jacksonville.