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Banker Martin J. Roess dies at 95

He founded several area banks and also served in the federal government.

Published August 13, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG - Martin J. Roess, a retired banker and business executive who was prominent here for more than three decades, has died at 95.

Mr. Roess, a financier, lawyer and developer who served in the federal government in Washington and Florida, died Thursday (Aug. 7, 2003) at home. He had been under the care of hospice since April, his family said.

Appointed to an unexpired term as a circuit judge in 1966 by Gov. Haydon Burns, he served for four months. Thereafter, he was frequently called "Judge Roess."

He retired in 1983 as president and board chairman of the institution he founded in 1960, Guaranty Federal Savings and Loan Association. Goldome Savings Bank of Buffalo, N.Y., acquired Guaranty in a merger.

Mr. Roess (pronounced RACE), who also was chairman and owner of North American Insurance Co. and Lawyers Land Title Corp., built Guaranty Savings into an institution with 19 offices and assets of $550-million.

In his long career, he founded and was principal owner of Southeast Bank of South Pasadena, American National Bank of Clearwater and American Bank of Tyrone, all of which were later acquired by Landmark Banking Corp.

Active in politics, he was a captain in Pinellas County forces of Gov. Burns, a Democrat, and was named finance chairman of the Florida Republican Party in 1975. The following year, he became Pinellas County chairman of President Gerald Ford's re-election campaign.

An Ocala native, he was the grandson of a Florida pioneer circuit judge, Robert Lockridge Anderson, who left Mayfield, Ky., for Ocala in 1880.

In 1916, his family moved to Jacksonville. He grew up there and graduated from Duval High School in 1926. He received a bachelor's degree and law degree from Cornell University and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the national scholastic fraternity. He was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1932.

In World War II he was commissioned in the Air Branch of the Naval Reserve and served in Alaska and the Pacific Theater.

After the war he was named Federal Housing Administration director for Florida with responsibility for 53 counties. After a year in the job, he moved to St. Petersburg and soon opened a law firm.

During the Korean War period, he was called back to Washington as acting director of the Shelter Division of the Federal Civil Defense Administration and went on to head the nation's fallout shelter program.

Survivors include his wife of 22 years, Alice; five daughters, Diane Totty, Athens, Ga., Susan Keller, Gainesville, Lori Roess and Morgan Leslie, both of St. Petersburg, and Allison Roess-Stinson, St. Marys, Ga.; two sons, M. John and Robert, both of Jacksonville; a sister, Ann Shelton, Columbia, Tenn.; 12 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.

A requiem Mass will be at 11 a.m. Aug. 27 at St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral with burial at Memorial Park Cemetery. National Cremation Society, St. Petersburg, is in charge of arrangements.

The family suggests memorial contributions to the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, 300 East Bay Drive, Largo, FL 33770-3770 or Christ Episcopal Church, 4030 Manatee Ave. W, Bradenton, FL 34205.

- Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

[Last modified August 13, 2003, 01:32:38]

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