Capitol honors ex-Gov. MacKay
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2001
TALLAHASSEE -- For a couple of hours Monday, the Democrats were back in the spotlight at the Florida Capitol.
Gathered in the Capitol Rotunda, former Gov. Buddy MacKay, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth and Rhea Chiles, widow of the late Gov. Lawton Chiles, gathered to recall old times and unveil an official portrait of MacKay.
Reno and Butterworth praised MacKay as a devoted public servant who spent more than 30 years in government service.
Reno and MacKay arrived in the state capital in 1968, she as a staffer for the House Judiciary Committee and MacKay as a member of the House.
Making her first appearance in Tallahassee since leaving office in January, Reno was greeted by lengthy applause from those who crowded into the Capitol Rotunda for the ceremony.
She challenged young people to view public service in the tradition established by MacKay, Chiles, former State Rep. Bill Sadowski and others as an "important calling."
Recalling her days on the House staff, Reno said MacKay "stood out" as a man who responded with sensitivity, "was unfailingly polite and treated everyone with remarkable respect and dignity," whether he was talking to a janitor or a governor.
Sen. Kendrick Meek recalled the days when he worked as MacKay's driver.
"Buddy and I desegregated many areas in North Florida," noted Meek, an African-American Democrat from Miami who is a former trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol.
MacKay returned the praise for Reno and Meek and also added a few good words for Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente, a Chiles appointee who was among the justices who ruled against George W. Bush in the court's December election recount case.
MacKay noted that he and Reno are at the end of their careers "unless somebody gets her mad and she decides to run again."
Quoting Prince Clemens von Metternich, the Austrian statesman, MacKay said his career was helped along the way because the spectators mounted the stage.
"History isn't about the actors on the stage, but about the spectators who are saying do it right, or we'll do it," MacKay said.
MacKay concluded by quoting Chiles' attempts to translate Shakespeare into words a "Cracker could understand."
"Take care that at the end, when your rusty armor hangs on the wall, that all of the dents are in the front," MacKay said. "When you look at people doing the right thing, it's not whether you won or lost, but whether all the dents are in the front."
MacKay, 67, said he is "in transition" and plans to move back to his home near Ocala after living in Washington, where he served as President Bill Clinton's special envoy to the Americas. He plans to spend time with his seven grandchildren and do some work to maintain relations between the United States and South American countries.
MacKay served as lieutenant governor with Chiles for almost eight years and took over as governor for the final 25 days of Chiles' term after he died in December 1998.
The portrait, painted by Tallahassee artist Ed Joans, will hang in a hallway near portraits of Chiles and other past governors. Also in the hallway is a portrait of Wayne Mixson, who served as governor for three days in 1987 when Gov. Bob Graham resigned early to take his seat as senator.
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From the Times state desk
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