TBT: RFK, D-Day, mob hits, and more

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June 5 goes down as having some of the biggest highs and lows in American history. The date marks the tragic shooting of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 just following his victory speech in the California presidential primary. RFK died the next day. But the date also marks the beginning of what we now know as “D-Day” — the June 6, 1944 launch of the largest amphibious operation in history that brought the beginning of the end to Nazi Germany. Thousands of soldiers took part in this Invasion of Normandy, including many from Florida. Florida newspaper headlines from June 5 and 6 speak for themselves.

Of course, most of our flashbacks for June 5 are less known. For example, June 5, 1950 marks the killing of who the FBI considers to be Tampa Bay’s first true Mafia boss, James Lumia. Lumia — owner of an oil refinery at the Port of Tampa — was a one-time king of Tampa gambling outfits. His reign ended with a shotgun blast ordered by mob bigwig Santo Trafficante, Sr. “Santo Sr.” was a major rival, and didn’t need much incentive to take Lumia out. Santo, Sr., then rose Tampa’s mob’s top spot. Under Trafficante, illegal bolita numbers rackets continued, and the family’s power grew after his death to include all the big gigs in mob life: prostitution, narcotics, union racketeering, and the works.

June 5 is also an interesting day in Florida science history. On this date in 1991, NASA launched the first space shuttle mission dedicated entirely to life sciences research. The Columbia took off from Kennedy carrying 29 rats, about 2,500 jellyfish, and various plants. The goal was to check out how different physiological systems reacted to weightlessness. The crew investigated cardiovascular, renal, endocrine, blood plasma, immune, musculoskeletal, and neurovestibular systems. They also looked into the effects of cosmic radiation and zero-gravity dynamics.

Tampa Bay’s 31st mayor, Myron Gillett, took office on June 5, 1898. During his tenure, Gillett supported capital improvements in Tampa and increased municipal services to residents and businesses. He believed in government support of economic development and knew a thing or two about business: he was one of the most successful citrus growers in Polk and Marion counties, and established the first large nursery in the state. Gillett was also one of the founders of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association which later became the Florida Citrus Exchange. When the “big freeze” of 1894 killed his citrus crop, Gillett created the Gillett Lumber Company and the Tampa Building and Investment Company. His son later developed Temple Terrace.

June 5, 1985, to date remains the hottest ever recorded in Tampa history when it hit 99 °F (37 °C). It may feel like it on many days, but Tampa hasn’t broken 100 ° that we know of. St. Pete’s highest recorded temperature did hit 100 ° — in June, 1995.



Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.