January 20, 1920 – October 10, 2012
Sam Gibbons, a "true American hero" who fought at Normandy and served as a bay area lawmaker for more than five decades in the Legislature and Congress, has died at age 92, his son Cliff announced this morning in Tampa.
Tuesday night, after celebrating his anniversary with his wife Betty, Mr. Gibbons "had a wonderful evening with my brother Tim,'' Cliff Gibbons said. "They sat on the porch and looked out on the bay and had a great talk.
"He went to bed as he normally does, but when he was to get up this morning for breakfast, we couldn't get him awake."
He was pronounced dead this morning at Tampa General Hospital. "They said he died very peacefully,'' his son said.
A Democratic institution in Hillsborough County who was pivotal in the creation of the University of South Florida, he never lost an election.
But on March 4, 1996, Mr. Gibbons did what no political opponent had been able to do. He took himself out of the race for reelection. Three decades in the House convinced him that it was time to try something different.
President Bill Clinton tried to dissuade him from stepping down. But Mr. Gibbons decided it was time to move on. He planned to teach, serve on boards and work for Clinton's reelection.
The lone remaining House member to have parachuted into German-occupied France on D-Day, Mr. Gibbons left an extensive legacy: trade bills such as NAFTA, federal money to rebuild the Sunshine Skyway bridge, a tax law exempting homeowners older than 55 from paying capital gains taxes when they sell their houses.
He was the Head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.