U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons dead at 92

Oct. 11, 2012 at 6:47 PM
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TAMPA, Fla., Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons of Florida, a D-Day veteran who helped inspire the book "The Greatest Generation," has died. He was 92.

Gibbons, a Democrat, represented the Tampa area in the Florida House and Senate and then in the U.S. House for 44 years, The Tampa Bay Times reported. In Congress, he rose to be chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

His family said he died early Wednesday.

Gibbons, a native of Tampa, dropped out of the University of Florida to enlist in the Army. He had risen to captain by the time he parachuted into Normandy in 1944.

Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw said a chance meeting with Gibbons in a French cafe helped inspire him to write "The Greatest Generation." He said he was fascinated by Gibbons' stories of the invasion.

Gibbons left the Army with a Bronze Star, went to law school and married in 1946. In 1952, he ran for the Florida legislature and for the next four decades never lost an election.

He moved up to the state senate in 1958 and to Congress in 1962. In his years as a lawmaker, he was credited with starting the University of South Florida, creating the Southwest Florida Water Management District and helping President Lyndon Johnson move the Civil Rights Act.

"He has been, in my opinion, one of the most outstanding congressmen from Florida we've had," said former Gov. Reubin Askew. "The lobbyists couldn't get to him. You couldn't persuade him to go against his own conscience."

Gibbons kept a sense of humor about his job until the end.

"People will forget your face," he said in a speech in July. "They'll forget your name. But they won't forget these ears."

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