TALLAHASSEE -- Bill McBride, a gregarious Tampa lawyer with a common touch whose dream of becoming Floridas governor ended in a one-sided 2002 loss to Jeb Bush, died Saturday. He was 67.
McBride, the husband of Alex Sink, the 2010 Democratic candidate for governor, suffered a heart attack while on a holiday trip to North Carolina. Along with the couples son Bert, daughter Lexi and other family members, they had gathered for Christmas in Sinks hometown of Mount Airy, N.C.
Patrick Manteiga, publisher of La Gaceta newspaper in Tampa and a family friend, said McBride was found unconscious after he excused himself from a game of cards.
They had gone up to North Carolina to visit her side of the family. They had a perfectly great trip, ate at a restaurant that had great pork chops, and in the evening were playing gin rummy. Bill got up and left and didnt come back, Manteiga said.
Manteiga said details on services would be forthcoming.
Bills most outstanding quality is that he is the most fantastic father in the world, said Bob Bolt, McBrides law partner and a close friend since they were high school football rivals. . . . He always made sure he got home at night to see his kids.
Bolt said McBride played competitive handball as recently as last week. He played at the Harbour Island Athletic Club & Spa, where in 2003 he collapsed while working out on a treadmill.
McBride underwent an angioplasty, in which doctors inserted a stent into a closed coronary artery to reopen it.
A lover of baseball, football, fishing and anything involving his alma mater, the University of Florida, McBride was born on May 10, 1945.
He was an imposing figure, at six feet three and well over 200 pounds, but had a wide, easy grin and a folksy demeanor.
Despite his success and wealth in the corporate world, McBride enjoyed wearing an old gray sweatshirt, eating cheeseburgers and slaw dogs, and drinking a glass of bourbon. He remained steadfastly proud of his small-town roots in 1950s Leesburg, north of Orlando.
The son of a TV repairman, he played fullback and linebacker in high school. At UF,
a knee injury derailed his football career, but he followed a well-worn path to politics as a member of Blue Key and as president of a leading campus fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega.
After a year of law school at UF, McBride joined the Marines, rose to the rank of captain and received the Bronze Star with a Combat V for valor for service during the Vietnam War.
He became a leader in such organizations as United Way and the Florida Holocaust Museum, was a sought-after fund-raiser for Democratic candidates and was managing partner of Holland & Knight, which for many years was the states largest law firm, where his mentor was Chesterfield Smith, a former American Bar Association president.
After a decade in charge of Holland & Knights global operations, spanning six countries, he joined the Tampa law firm of Barnett, Bolt, Kirkwood, Long & McBride. He was a senior partner at the time of his death.
Political leaders throughout Florida paid tribute to McBride on Sunday.
Gov. Rick Scott, who defeated Alex Sink in 2010, said: Bill McBride was a great lawyer, a devoted public servant, a veteran and a talented leader .. . Florida is no doubt a better place because people like Bill McBride commit themselves to making a difference in the lives of others.