Pink is what distingusihes the last day of Florida’s legislative sessions.
Lobbyists, consultants, former lawmakers and observers, clad in pink outfits, roam the Capitol hallways during the session’s final hours.
Pink is the tradition for Capitol veterans to pay tribute to the late lobbyist Marvin Arrington.
“Marvin was here for a long time and he had a tradition of wearing a pink sports coat on the last day of session,” said Wayne Malaney, who lobbies for newspaper publishers.
In 2002, Arrington succumbed to a heart attack in a parking lot a block north of the Capitol. It was the Monday of the last week of session for that year.
By the time people realized he was in crisis, smoke from the spinning of his car tires filled the downtown area.
“Marvin wore pink carnations and no one serving today was here when Marvin was but those who were remember him by wearing pink,” said Keith Arnold, who served in the House in the 1980s and 1990s and now lobbies.
The last day of the 2002 session, Arrington’s son, Reynolds, and nephew Patrick showed up at the Capitol wearing Arrington’s trademark pink jackets. Joining them were more than 100 lobbyists sporting pink; carnations, jackets, shirts, all responding to Reynolds’ request to remember his dad with a display of pink.
“Anyone that’s man enough to wear pink at your age is man enough for us to listen to,” remarked former Speaker James Harold Thompson to the Orlando Sentinel.
People observe traditions for a variety of reasons. They are a tool to keep up predictability in a changing world, to create self-identity for a group within a larger society and serve to transfer knowledge from one generation to the next.
“I wear a hideous pink jacket for Marvin; he was a great guy, a wonderful man,” Dave Ramba said. “His son comes for the final day and we as a community watch out for him; he was just 13 years old when he lost his father. We’ll all be wearing pink carnations.”
Marvin Arrington’s father, C. Fred, served in the Florida House in the 1950s and Marvin would tell friends he grew up at the Capitol. Among lawmakers, their staff and journalists he was known as a “white hat,” an honest broker of information.
For some Tallahassee politicos the wearing of pink is a statement of values.
“We respected him greatly for his intellect and honesty,” said Steve Schale, who knew Arrington while working for state Rep. Doug Wiles. “And my way of paying homage to the way I think we are suppose to treat this business as advocates is to wear pink for Marvin Arrington.”
Seeing pink at the Capitol on the session’s final day, to paraphrase Artis Whitman, is a visual reminder of how each generation takes nourishment from earlier ones, giving knowledge to those who come after.
Or, then again, Ramba may be right: It’s a hideous fashion statement but a fun way to remember a “great guy and wonderful man.”