PASSING OF A MAVERICK
Reading Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty's column this morning, I noted that one of Polk County's extreme conservative mavericks passed away recently.
Ray Mattox was a Winter Haven attorney and served in the Florida House of Representatives for 18 years from the mid 1950s until the early 1970s. While the former Democrat (he switched his party affiliation to the GOP shortly after leaving the Legislature) sparked many debates with collegues on issues such as welfare, he was generally respected and considered a person to learn from.
"Even on something he didn't agree with, he would go out of his way to explain the issues to me," (Former legislative collegue and Polk County Commissioner Larry) Libertore said. "He was genuine in his feelings and beliefs and I don't think he ever acted for purely political reasons."
During his time in the Legislature, Mattox was generally known for his support of education, the citrus industry, and law enforcement. His father, Grady Mattox, served as a local justice of the peace and constable in the years after World War II, which likely influenced him to co-sponsor legislation during the early 1970s to establish training standards for law enforcement officers statewide.
A veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, Mattox was also active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and served in a variety of offices within that organization, including State Commander.
I had the opportunity to know him briefly while working at Winter Haven radio station WHNR, where he did a weekly talk show for nearly a year (he also wrote a weekly column for the Winter Haven News Chief as well as children's books). While I certainly did not agree with much of his political philosophy, I always found talking with him to be enlightening and interesting. He always spoke from the heart, and one had to respect that.
Ray Mattox died Thursday of congestive heart failure December 29 at Winter Haven Hospital. He was 78 years of age. His funeral service was held last Tuesday.