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Ex-senator, lawyer Wilson dies at 85

Attorney Harold S. Wilson, who worked as a state senator to reform Florida's judicial system and reverse the effects of pollution in Tampa Bay, died Friday (Oct. 20, 2006). He was 85.

Published October 26, 2006


CLEARWATER - Attorney Harold S. Wilson, who worked as a state senator to reform Florida's judicial system and reverse the effects of pollution in Tampa Bay, died Friday (Oct. 20, 2006). He was 85.

A Republican state senator from 1966 to 1972, Mr. Wilson joined with then-Rep. Mary Grizzle in an effort to protect local waters with the Wilson-Grizzle Act.

The bill, introduced by Grizzle and amended by Mr. Wilson, required municipalities to provide advanced waste water treatment in sewage plants. That treatment is credited with helping to reverse deterioration that had threatened to turn Tampa Bay into a cesspool.

"He did have a special interest because he wanted to help the Girl Scouts keep their camp pristine," Grizzle said Wednesday. "When other members saw the legislation was needed, then they came aboard."

After its passage, some local officials who had to pay for the treatment predicted the law would have a "momentous impact."

That's the idea, Mr. Wilson said.

"It's about time people realize when we talk about purifying the water, we really mean business," he said in 1972.

A graduate of the University of Chicago and Harvard Law School, Mr. Wilson came here in 1959 from his native Chicago and practiced law in Clearwater for 44 years before retiring in 2004 at age 83.

During his last legislative session, Mr. Wilson served on the Joint Committee on Judicial Reform campaigning for passage of amendments to the judicial article of the state Constitution.

Prior to his stint in the Senate, Mr. Wilson was one of the area's first assistant public defenders, associate municipal judge of Indian Rocks Beach, city attorney for Safety Harbor and chairman of Tampa Bay Conservation and Development Study Commission.

Mr. Wilson was a member of the Florida and Clearwater bar associations and the Pinellas Trial Lawyers Association.

From 1942 to 1945, Mr. Wilson served in the Army Signal Corps in the Philippines and New Guinea.

He was Catholic. A tennis and football fan, he also loved gardening, particularly in his butterfly garden.

Mr. Wilson had suffered with palsy for the last 10 years, but it was only in the last year that he was incapacitated, according to his wife of 44 years, Mary Ellen. He died at home under the care of his family and Hospice of the Florida Suncoast.

Services are scheduled for Saturday at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park & Funeral Home, 2853 Sunset Point Road, Clearwater.

Visitation at 10:30 a.m. will be followed by the funeral at 11 a.m. and then burial.

Besides his wife, his survivors include two daughters, Jennie Wilson Miller, Largo, and Janice Wilson, Tavernier; a sister, Evelyn Crosbie, and a grandson, Bennett Miller, both of Largo.

The family has asked that donations be made to either the Society for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, Executive Plaza 3, 11350 McCormick Road, Suite 905, Hunt Valley, Md., 21031, or the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, 5771 Roosevelt Blvd., Clearwater, FL 33760.

[Last modified October 26, 2006, 07:13:52]

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