1. News

Former Tampa Fire Rescue captain Clint Newman dies at 80

Published Jul. 28, 2013

ODESSA — Clinton Newman was a tough guy, though not the garden variety kind.

As a young man, he had been a Golden Gloves boxing champion, won an amateur bodybuilding contest and made his home down payment by hustling pool.

He lived much of every week in the most macho of environments, the stations of what is now called Tampa Fire Rescue. He served 22 years as a firefighter and paramedic, driver and captain before his retirement in the early 1980s.

Mr. Newman also collected teapots in tea sets from the Hall China Company, eight pieces in each of its 47 hues.

He was a big fan of Cambridge Glass, so much so he added a room to his home where handmade amethysts, pinks and royal blues could catch the sunlight.

Among the firefighter's most cherished possessions was a red and white 1960 Corvette, as much a part of his wanderlust as his cruises to China and South America.

Mr. Newman, a man of many dimensions who mellowed over the years, died July 19 of congestive heart failure. He was 80.

He started what was then called the Tampa Fire Department in the early 1960s and trained as a paramedic. Mr. Newman worked his way up to driver of Rescue 2, one of only three "rescue cars" the city had.

"Everything on the west side of the Hillsborough River was covered by Rescue 2, and he was it," said Robert Buggica, 75, a retired Tampa firefighter. The teams went from car extractions to fires to endangered swimmer rescues by the beach along the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

During the stretches of calm, crew members bonded in unusual ways. For rookies, that might mean being compelled to eat light bulbs or slip into a bed that had been wired to deliver an electric shock, said Sam Sinardi, a retired captain.

"But when that bell rang it was serious," said Sinardi, 78. "We did what we had to do."

As for Mr. Newman, Sinardi said, "When he reported to that station, he was 100 percent firefighter. He knew his job and he knew what his responsibilities were, and he did it to the best of anybody I can recall."

Clinton Kohlman Newman grew up in Tampa, part of a long line of fathers and sons with the same first and last names. His father, Clinton James Newman, worked for a pumping company.

The father went by "Jimmy." Mr. Newman went by "Clint." It had worked that way a long time.

Mr. Newman attended Hillsborough High and married at 18. They named their firstborn son Clinton Sheldon Newman.

Keeping with the pattern of alternating generations, Mr. Newton's son went by "Sheldon." Sheldon Newman's son — Clinton Stephen Newman — is called "Clint."

It gets tough at family reunions, said Candace Newman, Mr. Newman's wife of 30 years. They met at an auto garage after Tommie Jean, Mr. Newman's first wife, had died.

He wanted to buy hubcaps off Candace's Plymouth Volare. She didn't like the deal but agreed to talk it over later.

She shared his appreciation of fine glass, and the whole idea of creating a long retirement between the home he built 48 years ago in Odessa, a cabin near Franklin, N.C., and occasional trips to far-away places.

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter

We’ll deliver the latest news and information you need to know every weekday morning.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

"We don't live in one of those McMansions," said Candace Newman, 62. "We live on a lake here and then we've got the mountains."

They stocked the house with early American artifacts, using an old butter churn for an end table and keeping snacks in an antique ice box.

Heart trouble and fading eyesight limited Mr. Newman in recent years but never repressed his sense of humor.

"The grandkids could never really tell if he was kidding," his wife said. (Eventually someone broke the news to them that no, marshmallows do not really grow on trees.)

Of all the photos at his funeral service, one seemed emblematic, his wife said. It captured her burly husband, "this big rough, tough guy," smelling flowers and smiling.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.


This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge