FORMER U.S. SENATOR SMATHERS DEAD
George A. Smathers, a Democrat who served Florida with six years in the House of Representatives during the 1940s and 50s before being elected to the U.S. Senate for three terms, died earlier today. He was 93.
His son, former Florida Secretary of State Bruce Smathers, made the announcement this afternoon, saying that his father had suffered a stroke Monday. He lived in Indian Creek Village, an exclusive island community outside Miami.
Smathers was best known as one of the early voices warning against the rise to power of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and for his expertise on issues related to Latin America. But he was also known as a politician who coddled to the segregationist white voters of the day, and while he supported voting rights for black Americans, he worked to weaken or voted against other measures such as the 1964 Equal Rights Act.
He called among his close friends John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, two men who were elected to Congress at the same time and later became presidents. The Key Biscayne home that Nixon often sought refuge during his presidency was sold to him by Smathers.
After leaving the political realm in 1969, Smathers made a fortune through a variety of business interests. He donated tens of millions of dollars to the University of Florida, his alma mater, and the University of Miami.
A funeral service has been scheduled for January 29 in Bal Harbour.