Tampa Bay columnists
Mary Jo Melone
World & Nation
AP The Wire
Comics & Games
Home & Garden
Advertise with the Times
Judge's memory unscathed by 69 birthdays
By Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 24, 2000
Wednesday is Pinellas-Pasco Senior Judge Robert Beach's 70th birthday. Though he retired in 1992 and fills in occasionally on the Pinellas bench, don't let his gray hair fool you.
Beach, who fell just 2 miles short of swimming the English Channel as a 50-year-old, is sharp as ever.
One day last week, as he presided over the penalty phase of the Walter Morris trial, a witness turned to him and asked the judge whether he could remember him.
The judge didn't. But it didn't take much prodding for Beach to recall the event the witness had been involved in.
In 1969, the year after he was appointed to the circuit court, Beach ruled against students at Florida Presbyterian College (now Eckerd College) who wanted to use student-activity money to travel to Washington for a war protest.
The witness was a conservative Republican who opposed the use of the money for that purpose and had helped mount a legal challenge.
For five minutes, Beach recalled in authoritative detail his ruling and surrounding events. Then he turned to the witness and asked, "Did I do okay?"
"Yes, great," the witness said.
"I'll be 70 next week," Beach said with a chuckle. "And I still have a few marbles left."
If you see him, wish the judge a happy birthday.
BEING THERE IN SPIRIT DOESN'T CUT IT: It was closing in on midnight Tuesday, and the Pinellas County Commission -- after more than two hours of testimony -- still was wrestling with whether it should rezone the Bay Pines Evangelical Lutheran Church in Seminole so CVS could tear it down and put up a drugstore.
Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd was out of town at a conference, but she had asked county administrator Fred Marquis to relay a message. "She asked me to convey that she would not support this rezoning," Marquis said.
Commission chairman Bob Stewart, though smiling slightly, obviously didn't care what Todd's opinion was in absentia.
"She didn't sit through 62 members of the public speaking," Stewart said. "We don't accept proxy votes. Thank you anyway. Next time, she sits here until 11:30."
IN THE INTEREST OF TIME . . . : County Commissioner Calvin Harris almost always has a consumer tip to offer listeners at the end of each commission meeting. Last week was no exception.
But after commissioners and residents had endured a six-hour meeting, Harris chose the merciful path.
"I do have a great consumer tip," he said. "But I'm definitely going to save it until next week since it's after midnight."
- Times staff writers William R. Levesque, Wilma Norton and Edie Gross contributed to this report.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.