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Memories of Jamerson warm House chamber

The former lawmaker's colleagues recall his legislative career, the issues he fought for, and his sense of humor.

By TIM NICKENS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 2001


The former lawmaker's colleagues recall his legislative career, the issues he fought for, and his sense of humor.

TALLAHASSEE -- Doug Jamerson was remembered Wednesday for the good humor and dogged determination he brought to public service.

In the House chamber where Jamerson served as a state legislator from St. Petersburg for more than a decade, former colleagues and old friends shared stories, a few laughs and more tears during a memorial service.

"He was proud but not prideful. He was confident but not cocky. He was respectful of others, but he was never subservient," recalled former House Speaker Peter Wallace of St. Petersburg. "Doug brought out the best in people."

Jamerson, 53, died Saturday after a battle with cancer. He had kept his health problems to himself, and even his closest friends were stunned by his death.

Another memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Friday in St. Petersburg at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, 1600 54th Ave. S.

On a day when House Democrats and Republicans engaged in one of their worst partisan fights in years, Jamerson briefly brought members of both political parties together. The House and Senate unanimously approved resolutions honoring the former legislator, state education commissioner and secretary of labor.

Both Republicans and Democrats fondly recalled Jamerson during the memorial service. Among the listeners were most members of the state Cabinet, current and former House speakers and Senate presidents, and Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan -- who defeated Jamerson in the 1994 race for education commissioner.

Many of the stories involved Jamerson's legislative career and his advocacy for public education, a state minimum wage and other issues.

Sen. Betty Holzendorf, D-Jacksonville, remembered serving in the House with Jamerson when he would good-naturedly beg to be recognized to speak in the chamber. She said he could convince others to change their minds and was an expert at compromise.

"If we have not learned anything else," Holzendorf said, "it was the intensity for which Doug fought for those things he believed in. . . . Nine times out of 10 he would win, but even if he lost he would go over to his opponent, shake his hand and laugh -- and start working on the amendatory process."

Others reminisced about their encounters with Jamerson outside the House chamber.

Wallace remembered how he unsuccessfully tried to talk Jamerson into dropping out of his first House race in 1982 in favor of a more well-known candidate. Education Commissioner Charlie Crist recalled attending St. Petersburg High School at a time when Jamerson taught there.

"Doug Jamerson was a big man with a big laugh and a bigger heart," Crist said. "He always told me it would be a happy day when the student passed the teacher . . . this student never passed that teacher."

Others remembered Jamerson as a great storyteller who enjoyed sharing a drink or two. Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, joked that he and Jamerson would call each other's wives to explain why they were out so late.

"It's not how many years we live," Lawson said as he talked of Jamerson's contributions, "it's what we accomplish in the years we have."

Recent coverage

Longtime state legislator Jamerson dies at 53 (April 22, 2001)

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