Losing a visionary
After a long-running battle with cancer, influential Tampa figure John F. Germany died Wednesday morning at the age of 92. He was one of three men who helped found USF in 1956 and was born in Plant City.
As a child, Germany picked strawberries and delivered newspapers. He went on to attend Harvard Law School and become one of the most successful lawyers in the state, according to WUSF. Before becoming active in the Tampa political community, Germany was a World War II veteran and later turned to a career in law.
In order to help establish USF, Germany worked with former Gov. Leroy Collins and Congressman Sam Gibbons. Gibbons also received the USF President’s Fellow Medallion for his work with the university and the community.
USF President Judy Genshaft released a statement Wednesday regarding Germany’s passing:
“John Germany played a pivotal role in the founding of the University of South Florida in 1956, and will be remembered as one of Tampa’s most influential visionaries … Germany’s dedication to learning, his devotion to community and family and his guiding values of equality and justice are a legacy that will live on in this great institution. We are forever grateful.”
While serving as a chief circuit judge, Germany worked with others in the community to develop an improved library in downtown Tampa, which has maintained his namesake since November 1999.
“He was very deeply honored by the renaming, but it was not something he sought out. It was something other community members sought out for him, to celebrate his dedication,” said Andrew Breidenbaugh, a USF alumnus and director of library services for Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.
Germany was also the first president of Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County, Inc., a group that pushed for the newer library, called Tampa Public Library, at the time of founding. Germany’s legacy with the library will continue through the John Germany Youth Reading Initiative, to which Germany provided a $100,000 donation.
“He had a very strong desire for children to have books in their hands, plain and simple,” Breidenbaugh said.
According to Breidenbaugh, Germany was seen in Tampa libraries even in his last weeks.