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    Former lawmaker Robert Mann dies

    By KATHERINE GAZELLA, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 28, 2002

    Robert Trask Mann -- a former judge, state legislator and law professor known for his integrity and wit -- died Tuesday at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater. He was 77.

    Some of Florida's dignitaries remembered the Tarpon Springs native as an intellectual who championed ethical standards for legislators and never shied away from difficult issues. Former Gov. Reubin Askew said Judge Mann was a skilled debater and a strong supporter of civil rights and desegregation.

    "I think he was one of the finest legislators I served with," said Askew, who was in the Legislature with Judge Mann and later appointed him to the state Public Service Commission. "He was one of my all-time favorites."

    Judge Mann began his public career in 1956, when he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives as a Democrat representing Hillsborough County. After leaving the House, he served as a judge on the 2nd District Court of Appeal, taught law at the University of Florida and was appointed to the Public Service Commission.

    During his 12 years in the Legislature, he made an impression as an intelligent and well-informed legislator who was quick with a one-liner.

    During a debate about an ethics bill he supported, another legislator angrily denounced him for implying that lawmakers could be bribed.

    "Gentlemen," he replied, "we're all agreed that no member of this chamber can be bought. The purpose of these rules, however, is to also assure the public that a legislator can't be rented for a few months."

    In 1969, after he left office, Judge Mann was awarded the St. Petersburg Times most valuable legislator award for 1967.

    From 1968 to 1974, Judge Mann served on the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland. He was chief judge during his last two years there. He was a law professor at the University of Florida from 1974 to 1986. While he was there, Askew appointed him to the Public Service Commission in 1977.

    Judge Mann is survived by his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Brown Mann, a former professor of library science; son Robert T. Mann Jr. of Stone Ridge, N.Y.; and daughter Margaret Elizabeth Mann of Brussels..

    The service for Judge Mann will be at 2 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church in Clearwater. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the University of Florida College of Law or the Florida Methodist Foundation in Lakeland.

    -- Staff writers Martin Dyckman and Lucy Morgan and researchers Mary Mellstrom and Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

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