Ex-Fla. Legislator and Lobbyist Tillman Dies at 77

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - July 4, 2012 -

Former Florida House Republican Leader Jim Tillman has died at the age of 77.

Tillman's ex-wife, Jane Tillman, says the former state representative and lobbyist died Wednesday at his home in Tallahassee after a long illness.

Tillman served in the House from 1967 through 1974. He helped pass the Baker Act that's designed to protect the rights of people with mental illness and legislation that sent alcoholics to detox facilities instead of prison.

Tillman also served as a Leon County Sheriff's deputy and as a counselor in Sarasota County's Juvenile Court. He was born June 23, 1935, in Adel, Ga., but grew up in Florida. He served in the Air Force before graduating from Florida State University in 1961.

He is survived by his third wife and six children.


Jim K. Tillman, 77, veteran Tallahassee lobbyist, businessman, and former Florida House Republican Leader and State Representative, died July 4, 2012, at his home in Tallahassee after an extended illness.

As a member of the Florida House of Representatives (1967-1974), Tillman was instrumental in the passage of a major reform of the state's mental health practices, the “Baker Act,” guaranteeing civil rights and due process to psychiatric patients. As House Republican Leader, he likewise worked for passage of the “Myers Act,” sponsored by Democrat State Senator Kenneth Myers of Miami, landmark legislation regarding the treatment of alcoholics, which provided for detox centers in lieu of prison terms for people arrested primarily for being chronic alcoholics. Referring to Tillman’s stint as a Leon County Deputy Sheriff from 1959 to 1961, Martin Dyckman, in his book, "Reubin O'D. Askew and the Golden Age of Florida Politics," quoted Tillman saying: "Week in, week out, I took the same people to jail, alcoholics who were not really bothering anybody, not really committing any crime."

Tillman also made the front page of The Wall Street Journal on June 15, 1971, when as a Republican House Leader, he helped reduce to a misdemeanor the felony penalty for possessing five grams or less of marijuana. Dyckman wrote that Tillman had opposed a similar bill in 1970, but changed his mind after a legislative subcommittee's visit to the women’s prison in Lowell, Florida, where he spoke with three young women whom legislators thought should have been in college rather than serving felony sentences for growing, in one case, five marijuana plants.

As a public official serving in the House during the Seventies, a time when Florida’s Legislature was recognized as one of the most effective and progressive in the nation, Jim epitomized the legislator who set the tone for independent thinking, argued and debated passionately but with dignity, and was able to put aside partisan politics after hours.

Tillman is survived by his wife, Barbara McDonald Tillman, Tallahassee; three sons, John Daniel Tillman (Jodi) of Monticello; Justin King Tillman (Holly), and James Sanders Sauls (Shannon), Tallahassee; three daughters, Teresa Tillman Dorough (David) of Tarpon Springs; Jimi Lynn Tillman Megargee and Cynthia Sauls Kynoch (Robert), Tallahassee; two brothers, Thomas Britton Tillman (Virginia), Crawfordville; and Andrew Lee Tillman, Jr. (Gloria) of Bainbridge, Georgia; 13 grandchildren, Melissa Tillman Buckhaulter (Charlie), Thomasville, Georgia; Jessica Lynn Tillman, Knoxville, Tennessee; Jimmy Kyle Tillman, Tallahassee; Charles Richard Geiger III, Daytona Beach; Leslie Anne Connell and Christopher Lee Connell, Tallahassee; Mary Megan Megargee, Tallahassee; John Aaron Reed, Warren Logan Reed, and Laramie Reed Tillman, Tallahassee; Audry Ann Sauls and James Henry Sauls, Tallahassee; Genevieve Analiese Kynoch and William Sanders Kynoch, Tallahassee; four great-grandchildren, Greg, Orion, and Madison Buckhaulter, Thomasville, Georgia; and Kyleigh Lynn Lawson, Knoxville, Tennessee; a special caregiver, Angela Kenon, Tallahassee; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Tillman was predeceased by his father and mother, Andrew Lee Tillman, Sr. and Virginia Maples Tillman, Tallahassee; his former wife, Mary Chandler Wells Tillman, Sarasota; and a beloved son, James McGregor “Mac” Tillman, Tallahassee.

Born in Adel, Georgia, on June 23, 1935, to Andrew Lee Tillman, Sr. and Virginia Maples Tillman, he moved with his family to Ocala and later to South Florida, returning to Ocala in 1945. As a student at Ocala High School, Jim lettered in football, playing both offensive and defensive tackle, graduating in 1953. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Air Force, where he served from 1953 to 1957. In 1957, he enrolled as a freshman at Florida State University.

While a student at Florida State University, Jim worked as a Deputy Sheriff under Leon County Sheriff Bill Joyce from 1958 to 1961. This fueled a lifetime interest in criminal justice issues, culminating in his earning a Degree in Criminal Justice in 1961. While at FSU, Tillman married Mary Chandler Wells of Clearwater, Florida.

In 1961, Jim moved to Sarasota, Florida, where he accepted a position as a Counselor for Sarasota County’s Juvenile Court, later becoming Chief Counselor. He and Mary purchased “Live Oak Ranch,” where they farmed and raised horses and cattle. Jim was a pilot licensed to fly single-engine fixed-wing aircraft and especially enjoyed flying his Cherokee Six aircraft to Republican fundraisers raising money for Republican candidates for the statehouse.

While a resident of Sarasota County, Jim served on several boards and was an active member of the Old Myakka Methodist Church. In 1967, Jim announced his candidacy for the Florida House of Representatives from District 75, serving parts of Highlands, Hendry, Charlotte, and Sarasota Counties. He was elected to office in 1967 to serve a two-year term and was subsequently re-elected for three additional consecutive terms. While serving as a State Legislator, Tillman was elected by his fellow Republicans as Minority Whip (1970-72) and was subsequently elected Minority (Republican) Leader by the House Republican Caucus for 1973-1974. In 1972, Jim served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention and in 1974 was named to “Who’s Who in American Politics.”

In 1975, Jim left Sarasota and moved to Tallahassee with his children to begin his lobbying career and to continue managing the Rodeway Inn. That year he opened his first lobbying firm, Capital Consultants Corporation, with partners Herb Harmon and Bill Lee of Tallahassee, and his cousin, Bob McClure of LaGrange, Georgia. Tillman took over the company as sole lobbyist in 1978, representing such clients as the Florida Hotel and Motel Association, the Florida Veterinary Medical Association, the Florida Public Defenders Association, and World Jai Alai.

In 1975, Jim married Lenora Jane Christie, of Tallahassee and Dawson, Georgia. During the late 70s and all of the 80s, Jim became a major player as a lobbyist representing multiple clients in the pari-mutuel, utility, and tourism industries. An avid hunter and fisherman, Jim traveled to Colorado each year to fish for rainbow trout and to hunt elk and mule deer.

In October 1993, Jim married Barbara McDonald of Tallahassee. In 1994, they formed Florida Legislative Consultants, Inc. and worked as a team through the 2011 Florida Legislative Session. During these years, they represented before the Florida Legislature, either individually or as partners, clients as diverse as a major California television production company, hotels and motels, phone companies, electric utilities, water management districts, tourism attractions, and campgrounds. In 1996, Jim was invited to serve as Guest Lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, along with Former State Senator Ken Plante and former House Republican Leader James P. Lombard, lecturing to government and policy students on the “Rise of the Republican Party in Florida Politics.” In 2005, Jim was named “Lobbyist of the Year” by the members of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists.

Culley’s Meadowood Park, Timberlane Road, Tallahassee, is in charge of visitation and funeral arrangements, which are being finalized and will be announced later this week.

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