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Tampa Philanthropist, Mayoral Candidate David Straz Dies

Nov 18, 2019

Tampa philanthropist David A. Straz - the namesake of downtown Tampa’s performing arts venue and more recently, a Tampa mayoral candidate – has died. 

His foundation announced that the 77-year-old died in his sleep while on a fishing trip with friends over the weekend.

Straz, who made his fortune as a bank owner in his native Wisconsin and later in Florida, was best known for his financial support of local organizations such as the University of Tampa, Zoo Tampa and the Straz Center for Performing Arts.

RELATED: David A. Straz's Vision For Tampa If He Were Elected Mayor

Credit The Straz Center for the Performing Arts

But earlier this year, Straz made bigger news with his first venture into local politics. He came in second in the Tampa mayoral race to Jane Castor.

Castor said in a statement Monday that his “indelible contributions to this city will be a part of our cultural fabric for decades to come.”

"Saddened by the loss of David Straz," former Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn posted on Twitter. "His generosity to the causes he cared about helped to shape the City we know today. His life will not be defined a single campaign but by the totality of his life and his contributions to the greater good."

Earlier this year, Straz posted a message about his own experiences and why it drove him to run for mayor on his campaign Facebook page:

I have lived the American dream and it started with a broom in my hand.

In high school, my first job was sweeping the floors of a bank. I also made money to support myself by cutting grass with the family lawnmower.

Because America is the land of opportunity, I was able to go from those humble beginnings to a career in banking … first in my native Wisconsin and continuing after I made my home in Tampa more than 20 years ago.

Here I met my wife, Catherine Lowry, a native of Tampa, and our daughter was born and raised here.

Good fortune in the business world has allowed me to have a positive impact on the life of this city through the business community and our family’s support of higher education and cultural institutions.

Officials from the Straz Center also posted a remembrance of Straz, who donated tens of millions of dollars to the performing arts facility in 2009 on their Facebook page:

Shortly after his death was announced, Tampa-area political figures and community leaders expressed their condolences and gratitude.

Straz is survived by his wife, Catherine, and daughter, Keebler.