Clermont Florida —
Former state Sen. Dick Langley, who wielded considerable clout in Tallahassee during the 1970s and ‘80s from his home base in rural Lake County, died Wednesday. He was 80.
Langley died after a “lengthy illness,” according to a memo to senators from the upper chamber.
The Clermont attorney represented residents in Lake when the population was far smaller than the roughly 324,000 people who live there today, but observers said he had plenty of leverage in the Legislature.
“He wasn’t a huge man, but he had huge influence,” said David Knowles of Leesburg, a former Lake GOP chairman who worked closely with Langley.
“I said he’s a ‘tough rascal’ — and that’s not the exact word I used — and he called me up and asked me that’s what I said and I said, ‘Yeah, I thought that was a compliment,’” said Knowles, a former Leesburg mayor.
A Florida native, Langley served in the House from 1972 to ‘78 and in the Senate from1980 to ‘92, when he was defeated by Democrat Karen Johnson after a hard-fought race.
During the campaign, Johnson circulated a brochure that criticized Langley for failing to support stiffer penalties for delinquent taxpayers and firearms in the home. Langley had opposed a bill that would require guns to be kept safely locked away from minors because he said arresting parents would only cause further trauma.
“He was Republican when it wasn’t cool to be Republican,” said Marilyn Bainter, a Republican activist who knew Langley through her husband, former state Rep. Stan Bainter, R-Eustis.
During a roast to raise money for his 1992 race, one speaker said he was affectionately known as ”the S.O.B. from Clermont,” while another clarified that the initials stood for “Sweet Old Boy.”
“He was tough,” Bainter said.