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Remembering Education Champion Thomas Terrell Sessums

Jun 7, 2020

Thomas Terrell Sessums is being remembered for his leadership, love of community, and advocacy on behalf of fair education. 

The former Florida Speaker of the House and longtime partner of Salem Law Group died Saturday at the age of 89.

Sessums served a state representative from 1963-1974, including a term as Speaker from 1972-1974. He wrote legislation that created the Tampa Sports Authority and the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission.

Sessums later served as a member of the Florida Board of Regents, which governed state universities before the Board of Governors. 

The University of South Florida said that Sessums played a key role in the establishment of USF and the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

"Florida has lost one of our most dedicated leaders and a true champion of public education and higher education," Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said Saturday. "He served his country and community with honesty and commitment."

Some years ago, Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court Pat Frank recounted to the Tampa Bay Times that Sessums was the "father of the Florida Education Finance Act." 

In her words, "He ensured every student received the same weighted funding rather than counties spending in unequal ways."

Sessums would have turned 90 Thursday. He is survived by three children, and five grandchildren.