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He left his mark on the city

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 15, 2002

Peter O. Knight had a hand in creating more than the Davis Islands airport.

Freeburg, Pa., native Peter O. Knight could have had a lot of things named after him. He finally scored with the municipal airport at the southern edge of Davis Islands, land he helped the city acquire in 1934.

Reknowned for his brilliant legal mind and forensic skills, he established himself as a force in Florida politics by serving as mayor of Fort Myers and helping incorporate the town by age 21. Knight moved to Tampa in 1891 after serving in the state Legislature.

A lawyer by trade, his list of clients would soon read like a Who's Who of Tampa power brokers: Exchange National Bank of Tampa (which he helped found), Tampa Livery and Sale Co., Tampa Gas Co., Ybor City Land and Investment Co., Consumers' Electric Light and Street Railway Co. (of which he also was vice president).

Knight helped organize the Tampa Suburban Co., which would later evolve into Tampa Electric Co., of which he was president from 1924 to 1946. The Tampa Gas Co.? He helped create that too. But Knight was most powerful as the attorney for the Seaboard Line, a conglomerate of rail lines that, with Knight's help, transformed much of the downtown's waterfront into a thriving port in the early 1900s.

He died in 1946 at age 80.

The middle initial that lends a faux Irish flair actually stands for Oliphant.

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