Former lawmaker, retired circuit judge
He was elected to the Legislature first as a Democrat, then as a Republican.
By CRAIG BASSE, Times Obituaries Editor
Published August 23, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG – John T. Ware, a retired Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge and longtime legislator who ran as a Democrat and a Republican, has died at 73.
Mr. Ware, who left the bench in 1992, died Saturday (Aug. 20, 2005) at the Hospice House of Palms of Pasadena Hospital from complications of Parkinson’s disease.
A lawyer since 1961, he was elected to the Legislature in 1964 as a Democrat. Two years later, he ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate but won election again to the House in 1968 after switching to the Republican Party.
In 1970, he was elected to the Senate and served there for a dozen years before losing his seat to Democrat Jeanne K. Malchon.
Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, said Monday that he and Mr. Ware were in the Legislature at the same time for several years.
“He was a Democrat when we first served together,” Young recalled. “Then he became a Republican. Then a judge. Then a good friend. We differed on occasion when he was a Democrat, but he was always a real gentleman and worked hard for what he believed in.”
A vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he sponsored legislation on education, prison reform, crime prevention and assistance to the elderly.
He was one of the creators of the Administrative Procedures Act, the law that allows Floridians to challenge the decisions of state agencies, said former Sen. Ken Plante, a Republican from Orlando who now lives in Tallahassee as a lobbyist.
Plante said Mr. Ware also was instrumental in creating Pride, the prison industries agency pushed by former Clearwater businessman Jack Eckerd.
A “really nice guy,” Plante said, Mr. Ware could on occasion try the patience of colleagues.
“We used to kid him because trying to go somewhere with John was like trying to push molasses up hill, but he was a super person to work with,” Plante said.
Lobbyist Wilbur Brewton, a longtime attorney for Pride, called Mr. Ware “one of those guys who studiously reviewed issues, a policy kind of person, slow and deliberate, but with an eye for the big picture.”
A member of the Constitution Revision Commission in 1978, he served as Senate minority leader from 1974-76 and again from 1978-80, years when Republicans were a minority. He was a three-time chairman of the Pinellas legislative delegation.
In 1984, he was elected to the Circuit Court and served in the civil, criminal and probate divisions. Re-elected in 1991, he resigned after a year.
“It’s been something I’ve been considering,” he said at the time. “I think I’ve been on there long enough.”
In 1996, he and his wife opened a real estate office in South Pasadena.
An avid boater, he owned Stow Away Cove marina on St. Pete Beach for many years, and his family said he was responsible for opening Anchor Savings Bank. He was its board chairman until he joined the court.
He formerly was a city attorney and prosecutor for St. Pete Beach and a state community planner.
A native of Chattanooga, Tenn., he was moved to Florida when he was 6 months old. After graduating from Saint Leo Prep, he served in the Korean War on the USS Saipan. He later studied at the University of Florida and graduated from Florida State University in 1957. He received his law degree from Stetson Law School.
He had been a vice president of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the Suncoasters, Pinellas Industry Council and Pinellas Planning Council. He was a member of the Florida Bar, the St. Petersburg Bar Association, the National, Florida and Suncoast associations of Realtors and the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.
Survivors include his wife, Joyce; two sons, Gregory S. and Steve E.; three daughters, Stacey Gaeta, Sheryl Ware-Collins and Sheila Brunett; a stepson, Mark E. Lillquist, all of St. Petersburg; a brother, Jim E., Santa Ana, Calif.; 13 grandchildren; and a great-grandson. Friends may call from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Anderson-McQueen Funeral & Cremation Center-Tyrone Chapel, 7820 38th Ave. N. A funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Pasadena Community Church, 227 70th Ave. S, with burial at Royal Palm Cemetery South.
The family suggests memorial contributions to Hospice Foundation of the Florida Suncoast, 300 East Bay Drive, Largo, FL 33770, or the National Parkinson Foundation, 1501 NW Ninth Ave., Bob Hope Road, Miami, FL 33136-1494.
–Staff writer Lucy Morgan contributed to this obituary, which includes information from Times files.
[Last modified August 23, 2005, 02:45:30]