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A Times Editorial

A tip of the hat to one who served state well


© St. Petersburg Times
published April 5, 2002

Those who loved, admired and respected Alfred A. McKethan will gather today to remember his commitment to his family and friends.

But McKethan's legacy to the rest of Hernando County, although less personal, will be one of commitment to the community, made evident through his sense of purpose and philanthropy.

McKethan, 93, died Monday. His funeral will be at 11 a.m. today at First Presbyterian Church in Brooksville. It will mark the end of an era in which McKethan's influence can be traced through three-quarters of the previous century's economic and political history.

From Tallahassee to Gainesville to St. Petersburg, McKethan left his imprint on Florida. In the 1940s and '50s, he was one of the most powerful people in the state, using his expertise as a banker in the private sector to augment a lifetime of public service:

McKethan was one of the founders of the Florida Citrus Commission.

He served as chairman of the State Road Board from 1949 to 1954. Notable accomplishments during that tenure included his support for building the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg, extending State Road 50 from Orlando to the Gulf of Mexico through Hernando County, and U.S. 98 from Lakeland to the southern border of Citrus County.

McKethan was the first chairman of the governing board of the newly created, sprawling Southwest Florida Water Management District, created then to handle flooding in a 15-county area.

He also helped site Florida Presbyterian College, now known as Eckerd College, in St. Petersburg.

He was a significant donor to his alma mater, the University of Florida, where the baseball stadium is named after him.

That list of landmark accomplishments notwithstanding, McKethan's impact arguably was appreciated most right in his own back yard. His generosity and civic-minded benevolence remain evident throughout the county, where parks, buildings and centers of learning bear his name because he donated land or cash to bring them to life.

McKethan's contributions were aptly summed up earlier this week by U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, who described him as "a giant in the generation that built modern Florida."

Whether he was twisting arms in Tallahassee, kissing babies at a church picnic in Brooksville, turning a spade to break ground at a new building or holding forth with stories about the good ol' days, McKethan was bold, opinionated and determined in all he undertook. Even if one disagreed with his agenda or tactics, his resolve commanded respect.

McKethan served his community with zest and a visionary commitment to what he believed, and his absence creates a tear in the fabric upon which this community was built.

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