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Dr. Richard Hodes, ex-politician, dies at 77

The physician and Democrat served as speaker pro tem and majority leader during 16 years in the House.

By CRAIG BASSE, Times Obituaries Editor
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 22, 2002

TAMPA -- Dr. Richard S. Hodes, a former leader of the Florida House of Representatives and a prominent physician and educator, has died at 77.

Dr. Hodes, a Democrat who was speaker pro tem and majority leader during his 16 years in the House, died Friday (Jan. 18, 2002).

He helped to fashion Medicaid legislation and was instrumental in drafting plans to consolidate health, institutional and welfare services.

In 1979, the year he became speaker pro tem, he was elected president of the Florida Medical Association, raising questions about a fine line he might have to walk.

The former chairman of the House Health and Rehabilitation Services Committee had an answer for his legislative colleagues:

"When any item that is part of the state medical association comes up, I will turn the gavel over to someone else," he said.

He added, "Of course, I'm a doctor. I think like a doctor."

In 1970, Dr. Hodes received the Florida Jaycees Good Government Award. He was nominated four times for the St. Petersburg Times' Most Valuable Member of the House award.

Elected majority leader in 1980, he left politics two years later when his term in the House ended to become chairman of the new Department of Anesthesiology at the University of South Florida College of Medicine.

He told reporters that he had turned down an offer to run for lieutenant governor on the ticket of Republican candidate Skip Bafalis of Fort Myers Beach. He said Bafalis, a member of Congress, made the offer in a meeting in Washington, D.C.

"After we talked it over," Dr. Hodes said, "I felt the best decision for me was to remain with the university."

Declaring himself flattered by the offer, he said changing his party allegiance would be "very difficult."

Dr. Hodes was a graduate of Tulane University and had practiced privately. He was a past president of the Hillsborough County Medical Association and Florida Society of Anesthesiologists.

For 20 years he was host of a weekly program on WEDU-Ch. 3.

Other memberships included Congregation Schaarai Zedek and Downtown Tampa Rotary Club. He was a past board member of New College.

Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Marjorie C.; a daughter, Lyn Meyerson, and a granddaughter, Jill Meyerson, both of Tampa.

The family suggests memorial contributions to Congregation Schaarai Zedek or the Florida Symphony.

-- Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

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