TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – The first Republican to win the Governor’s Office in Florida in the 20th Century has passed away.
Former Governor Claude R. Kirk Jr., 85, died in his sleep at his West Palm Beach home.
Democrats dominated Florida politics when Kirk was elected in 1966, but his victory cracked open the door for what eventually became the Republicans’ mastery of Tallahassee.
Although his political rivals derided the colorful insurance executive from Jacksonville, Kirk is credited with changing the course of state government and politics during his four-year term. Kirk was often referred to as “Claudius Maximus” due to his flamboyant personality.
“Ann and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Governor Kirk. He will be remembered as Florida’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction and a strong, outspoken and capable leader for our state during an era of immense change in our country,” said Gov. Rick Scott in a statement.
Kirk was born in San Bernardino, Calif., and served as a Marine officer in World War II and the Korean War.
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