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D.R. Matthews, former U.S. representative, dies

D.R. "Billy" Matthews, who served North Florida in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1953 to 1967, died Sunday at his home in Gainesville. He was 90.

While in Washington, Matthews won funding for Gainesville's downtown federal building, its Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's entomology labs.

Matthews, born in Micanopy on Oct. 3, 1907, attended school in Hawthorne and earned a master's degree in education at the University of Florida. After teaching in Leesburg and Orlando, he became principal of Newberry High School in 1935.

Also that year, Matthews won a seat in the Florida Legislature and served two years.

He served in the U.S. Army for four years during World War II and was discharged as a captain.

In 1952, with a shoestring campaign budget of $15,000, Matthews defeated 18-year Starke incumbent Lex Green. UF law student Lawton Chiles, later to become a U.S. senator and governor, helped manage Matthews' campaign.

Matthews was defeated by Don Fuqua in 1966. For the next two years, Matthews was deputy administrator and then administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Community Development Service in Washington. He later taught government at Santa Fe Community College.

Survivors include his wife, Sara Lewis Matthews of Gainesville, daughters Carolyn Matthews of Interlachen and Ann Matthews Hathaway of Gainesville, son Donald Ray Matthews Jr. of Enterprise, sister Fay Matthews Milton of Macclenny, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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