Bill McBride, a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate, husband to Alex Sink and powerhouse attorney, died Saturday. He had a heart attack Saturday evening while in Mount Airy, N.C., with family, according to Sink.
McBride was born in Belleville, Illinois and grew up in Leesburg, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1967. While at UF, McBride served as treasurer of Florida Blue Key and was inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame. McBride served in the Marine Corps from 1968 to 1971. McBride earned a Bronze Star with a Valor device. Upon his return to the United States, McBride taught at Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
Upon leaving the Marine Corps, McBride attended the University of Florida Law School.
While studying law he fell under the tutelage of Chesterfield Smith, a powerful politically-connected Florida attorney and then president of the American Bar Association. McBride left law school for a time to serve as Smith’s assistant at the ABA. After graduation, McBride joined Smith’s Tampa law firm, Holland & Knight, where he rose in the ranks until becoming managing partner in 1992.
McBride lost the 2002 race to incumbent Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.
Here is a compilation of reactions and tributes:
US Senator Bill Nelson:
“Bill McBride was larger than life. He was one of the great business, legal and political leaders of Florida, and he is a friend that many of us will miss.”
Congresswoman Kathy Castor:
“Bill McBride was a leader whose devotion, intelligence and commitment to service knew no bounds. Everyone in the Tampa Bay area loves Bill McBride and his wife, Alex Sink, because they have served as shining examples of selflessness and moral courage. Bill McBride was a force for good in our community and a strong advocate for public education and civic rights. His mission in life was to serve Florida, and he accomplished that in innumerable ways. It feels like part of Florida is missing tonight. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, especially Alex, Bert and Lexie. They kept Bill young and inspired, and his spirit will live on.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott:
“Bill McBride was a great lawyer, a devoted public servant, a veteran and a talented leader. Our family’s thoughts and prayers are with the McBride family, and especially his wife Alex, at this time of great loss. Florida is no doubt a better place because people like Bill McBride commit themselves to making a difference in the lives of others.”
Former Governor Jeb Bush, via Twitter: “Thoughts and prayers are with Alex and Bill’s entire family.”
Former Governor Charlie Crist, via Twitter: Our thoughts & prayers are with Alex & her children. Bill McBride was a civil rights leader, a war hero, & an irreplaceably great Floridian.
Senator Thad Altman, via Twitter: My thoughts and prayers go out to Alex Sink and the McBride family.
Senator Rob Bradley, via Twitter: Our thoughts and prayers are with Alex Sink and the McBride family tonight.
Senator Jeff Brandes, via Twitter: Our thoughts and prayers go out to former CFO @AlexSinkFlorida on the passing of her husband Bill McBride.
Representative Katie Edwards, via Twitter: Thoughts and prayers with Alex Sink and her family on the untimely passing of Bill McBride.
Representative Joe Saunders, via Twitter: …was so sad to hear this news today. Bill McBride was such an incredible Democratic leader and inspiration to…
Representative Alan Williams, via Twitter: Bill McBride=Larger than Life! Was always a funny guy, & loved campaigning for his wife @alexsinkflorida -Fla was better because of McBride.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Rod Smith:
“Tonight we offer our heartfelt condolences to Alex Sink and her family. All those who knew Bill knew he was not only a tireless advocate for the Democratic Party, but a leader and true public servant to the people of Florida. We send our thoughts and prayers to Alex, her children and their family in this difficult time.”
Former State Senator Dan Gelber:
“Bill McBride, to paraphrase my favorite Teddy Roosevelt passage, was a man of great enthusiasms and great devotions, who always strived valiantly in his pursuits and was never afraid to spend himself in a worthy cause. The thoughts and prayers of all Floridians are with Alex and the entire McBride family.”
Former State Senator Charlie Justice:
“Rest in peace Bill McBride. thank you for your service. Sending prayers of comfort to Alex and family.”
Former State Representative Bob Henriquez:
“He was one of those guys who’d put his arms around you and give you a bear hug and make you feel good.”
Former State Representative Scott Randolph:
“Our deepest condolences to Alex Sink and the McBride family. Bill was a man devoted to making Florida better and loved to watch a strong woman like Alex Sink succeed in life and politics.”
Alan Clendenin, Hillsborough County State Committeeman:
“Today, our state has lost Bill McBride, a true champion of the middle class and public education. Although Bill’s passing will leave a hole in our hearts, his lifelong commitment to public service will leave a lasting impact on our community and state. Bill McBride was a mentor and friend. Anyone lucky enough to have known him will miss his incredible smile, kind heart and warm spirit. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Alex, his children Bert and Lexi, and the entire McBride family.”
David Johnson, former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, via Twitter: He was a tough son of a gun, in life and in that 02 campaign.
Steve Schale, via Twitter: He always loved keeping the staff fired up. Impacted so many. Just stunned.
Holland & Knight Managing Partner Steven Sonberg:
“The Holland & Knight family is saddened by the news of Bill McBride’s passing. Bill remained a close and valued friend to many of us at Holland & Knight. He will be forever remembered as the consummate Holland & Knight lawyer.
“Bill provided dynamic leadership and gave his all in everything he did, whether guiding troops in Vietnam or managing Holland & Knight as it became a national law firm. Like his mentor Chesterfield Smith, Bill’s efforts benefitted the firm, its lawyers, and the legal profession in countless ways. Bill believed strongly that all lawyers have an obligation to help those in need, especially those who cannot afford access to the legal system. His lasting contributions will serve as a legacy for years to come.
We extend our deepest sympathy to his family during this difficult time.”
Kevin Cate, who served as a spokesman to Sink while she was Chief Financial Officer:
“Florida lost an icon Saturday night. Bill McBride was always quick, caring, and eager to help young people. I literally never had a conversation with Bill that didn’t include a story with a purpose. Florida politics won’t be the same without of him, but it is surely better off because of him. Thank you for everything, Bill.”
The editors of the Political Hurricane:
“We at the Political Hurricane would like to send our condolences to the family of Bill McBride. We know that this must be a difficult time for Alex Sink and the McBride family, as Mr. McBride has been taken away from us too soon. As a player in Florida Democratic politics, his contributions to the Florida Democratic Party will truly be missed. His skills as a legal master as well as his contributions to business should also be praised. Our prayers and our thoughts go out to the McBride family tonight.”
Tampa Bay Times media critic Eric Deggans:
“When we met, Bill was a fun guy to have a drink with and an impressive personality. The state has lost a great man.”