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Drugstore magnate Jack Eckerd dead at 91

Published May 19, 2004

Ruth and Jack Eckerd, in a 2003 photo.
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Jack M. Eckerd, founder of the drug stores that bear his name and philanthropist who ran for governor and U.S. Senate in the 1970s, died Wednesday at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater.

He was 91.

Eckerd suffered a stroke about five years ago. Family members said he entered the hospital about a week ago with pneumonia and died about 10 a.m. today.

Best known as the founder of the Clearwater-based Jack Eckerd Corp., Eckerd put his mark on more than drug stores, financing educational programs for prison inmates and troubled youngsters.

His $10-million gift to Florida Presbyterian College in St. Petersburg in 1971 led school trustees a year later to rename the school Eckerd College. He later gave the school other gifts totaling another $10-million.

Later, the personal involvement and financial commitment of Mr. Eckerd, and his wife, Ruth, were reflected in the naming of Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

Children were his big passion. He founded Eckerd Youth Alternatives, which has helped more than 50,000 at-risk children through wilderness camps and rehabilitation programs.

Politically ambitious, Mr. Eckerd, a Republican, ran twice for governor, losing in the 1978 general election to Democrat Bob Graham and in a 1970 primary to Claude Kirk, who ultimately lost to Democrat Reubin Askew. Eckerd also unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 1974.

Eckerd did have his stint with public service. Under President Ford he ran the U.S. General Services Administration. In Florida, he chaired a government efficiency committee that saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. He put prison labor programs on a profitable footing. He led two successful fights against casino gambling.

Funeral services are pending.

[Last modified May 19, 2004, 14:03:43]

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