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Fred "Bud' Dickinson, two-time candidate for governor, dies

Published Apr. 14, 1998|Updated Sep. 13, 2005

Fred O. "Bud" Dickinson Jr., a two-time candidate for governor and Florida's powerful state comptroller until scandal toppled him from office in 1974, has died. He was 76.

Mr. Dickinson, who had a history of heart trouble, died Saturday in Tallahassee from complications from a stroke and diabetes.

Appointed comptroller Sept. 1, 1965, by Gov. Haydon Burns, Mr. Dickinson was elected the following year in a landslide, first-primary victory over three opponents.

By the 1974 campaign, however, he had come to grief. As Florida's banking commissioner, the major role played by the state comptroller, Mr. Dickinson became the target of an investigation by federal prosecutors. The investigation focused, in part, on money from bankers that went unreported as either campaign contributions or personal income.

Saddled with the investigation, he lost the Democratic primary election to Gerald Lewis, a former state senator from Miami.

After the votes were counted, Mr. Dickinson was indicted. Though he was acquitted of more serious charges, he eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor income tax violations and was fined $3,000.

He also paid nearly $50,000 in a civil settlement with the IRS. During the lengthy legal procedures, Mr. Dickinson suffered a heart attack and later underwent open-heart surgery.

Mr. Dickinson, whose family tree had its roots in Florida since 1834, was born in West Palm Beach and attended local elementary and high schools. He developed an ambition for politics early.

"When I was 9 years old, my daddy said he hoped I'd grow up to be a lawyer, get into politics and be governor," he once said. "That got me thinking."

After high school, he first set his sights on a college education. By then, however, his father had taken ill and was unable to help him. He arrived at Stetson College in DeLand in the fall of 1940 with $15 in his pocket.

To pay his way through the first year, he delivered newspapers and collected laundry in the dormitories. For food, he worked in the school cafeteria.

During his second year, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Mr. Dickinson joined the Marines and was decorated for bravery during action in the South Pacific.

After the war, he returned to Stetson. He later transferred to the University of Florida Law School for a brief time, then returned to Stetson to graduate with his law degree in 1948.

He spent the next half-dozen years getting his practice started in West Palm Beach and ran successfully for the state House. He was given the Allen Morris Award in 1955 as the outstanding rookie representative.

When state Sen. Russell Morrow was appointed circuit judge, Mr. Dickinson ran successfully to fill the vacancy.

Next, he pursued his childhood vision to be governor. In 1960, the year he managed John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign in Florida, he had high hopes.

He ran fifth in the Democratic primary, however, and when he tried again in 1964, he was defeated in the Democratic primary by Haydon Burns. He then threw his support to Burns, who later named him to the vacant comptroller's post.

Mr. Dickinson was a member and lay leader in the Methodist Church. He was a member of the Shrine, Kiwanis, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Elks, Demolay, YMCA and the Florida Historical Society. He also belonged to the Florida Bar and the American Bar Association.

He is survived by his wife, Boots; a daughter; and four sons, including Fred O. Dickinson III, the executive director of the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Funeral services are scheduled for today.

__ Some information in this obituary came from the Miami Herald, the Associated Press and Times files.

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