Sam Gibbons was re-elected to Congress 16 times, from the 1960s through 1997. Before that, he served in the Florida Legislature, and was instrumental in getting the University of South Florida established. Former USF president Betty Castor says one reason for his longevity is Gibbons remembered that all politics is local.
"He handled the war on poverty legislation for Lyndon Johnson," she says. "And he made sure that as those initial programs like Head Start and Model Cities were started, that they were started in his own backyard. And we had the very first Head Start program here in Tampa. And then a lot of the other programs followed. So he was always very conscious of that national mood, but he took very good care of his home community."
And Castor said during the 90th birthday party for Gibbons two years ago that the Tampa Bay area won't forget him for what he's done for the community.
"When you think of the reach of the university and what it has meant educationally, what its meant scientifically, what its meant culturally to all of us," she says of his guiding role in getting USF established, "you just have to sit back and be in awe of this man."
Click on the "Listen Now" icon above to hear WUSF's conversation with Betty Castor.