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Reynolds heir hit by car on U.S. 19

Michael Reynolds, who inherited $2.5-million at age 21, dies at Bayfront Medical Center.

Published November 16, 2004

NEW PORT RICHEY - Michael Reynolds tried for two weeks to quit, but, like countless others before him, could not break the addiction. He lit up a Winston, then another and another.

His brother gently chided him about the relapse in a phone conversation Thursday. "Patrick, I'm no saint," Michael Reynolds replied from a motel room on U.S. 19. "Please accept me as I am."

Their exchange was notable because Michael and Patrick are grandsons of R.J. Reynolds Sr., founder of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., maker of Winston, Camel, Salem and Doral cigarettes.

It was also their last conversation.

Michael Randolph Reynolds, 57, was hit by a car while crossing U.S. 19 near Green Key Beach Motel about 6:15 a.m. Friday. He was flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he died later Friday.

Witnesses say Reynolds walked in front of a northbound Kia, whose driver was not charged.

"It's just terribly sad," Patrick Reynolds said Monday in an interview from Virginia, where a funeral will he held this morning.

How the heir to a tobacco fortune ended up in a motel in New Port Richey is a sad, complicated tale in itself.

Michael Reynolds was a changed man after serving with Army medics during Vietnam, his brother said, and later developed depression and battled drug and alcohol dependency. He had various arrests in Florida, where he spent most of his adult life.

"All of us did our best to support him and help him," Patrick Reynolds said, referring to drug treatment centers and other intervention. He said his brother came to New Port Richey last month. "That's where he felt loved and accepted."

Reynolds inherited $2.5-million at age 2 1 and invested in a resort near Stuart. He lived for years on Anna Maria Island. More recently he had moved to Tampa.

Patrick Reynolds, who is 55 and lives in California, went on to become an outspoken antismoking advocate, appearing on television and in newspapers. The crusade upset some members of his family. But his brother, who began smoking at age 17, supported him.

"He smoked, but he didn't like the fact that he smoked," Patrick Reynolds said, noting tobacco use contributed to the deaths of his father and grandfather.

Michael Reynolds' funeral this morning will be held in Critz, Va., with full military honors. Former Virginia Attorney General Mary Sue Terry will officiate.

[Last modified November 22, 2004, 10:27:22]

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