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Business Observer Monday, Jun. 21, 2021 4 months ago

Guy King III, business leader, philanthropist and mentor, dies

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Tampa business man remembered for being leader in the community and stepping in to solve problems.

TAMPA— Guy King III, a giant in Tampa’s business community as well as a philanthropist and advocate for the homeless and mental health care, died last week. He was 72.

King was president of M.E. Wilson Co., a 100-year-old family-owned insurance brokerage he ran with his brother Doug.

The two had been partners since 1985 and learned early in the relationship that Guy belonged out in the community while Doug manned the office. They were equals, each job as important as the other, says Doug, but the set up provided Guy an opportunity to get out into the community.

And boy did he get out. A family-provided biography and obituary posted online by Blount & Curry Funeral Home shows a man who spent much of his life giving back and becoming an integral part of the city he lived in and loved. He gave time to a long list of causes, belonged to business organizations and was recognized for the work he did.

But Doug, and others, say one of the things that drove Guy King the most was mentoring.

And to that end, it was one of the last things he did.

Doug and Guy had lunch together June 11 to discuss, of all things, Guy’s planned retirement in December. The following Monday, June 14, Guy came into the office for the agency’s weekly sales meeting. Because of COVID-19, he hadn’t been coming in as often. After the meeting, he sat down with some younger sales people to “tell them how they could help, how they could serve.”

Guy King had a coronary that evening and died three days later.

“It was kind of closing the books. Nobody is ever 100% ready to go, but that he was passing along some of his stuff to these young people, it’s kind of ironic,” Doug says. “There’s no coincidences. And that wasn’t one either. He came in, and the last thing he did here was mentoring.”

Guy King III was born in Tampa to Guy Jr. and Anne Wilson King. He attended elementary and middle school locally then went to Chattanooga, Tennessee to the McCallie School. He got a business degree from the University of Georgia in 1972 and first worked at Fireman’s Fund Insurance before moving onto the M.E. Wilson Co., the firm started by Guy and Doug’s grandfather in 1920.

Along with his duties in the insurance business, and a host of other community positions he held over the years, he was a past chairman of the Tampa Bay Chamber and he’d been a chairman at Gracepoint, a behavioral health provider, for the past 15 years.

According to the obituary, when asked how he could pack so much in, he would say, “I’m an insurance agent who doesn’t play golf or drink, so I have a lot of time on my hands.”

In an email to the Business Observer, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor says that “Guy King was an integral part of Tampa’s growth and success.”

“He never hesitated to roll up his sleeves and work on issues large and small. He was a tireless advocate for our community, a loving family man and a true friend,” she says.

As much as his altruism, he was also known as someone who could get things done.

Antoinette D. Hayes-Triplett, CEO of Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative, where King was vice president, says King was used his spiderweb of connections to help the causes he believed in most, harnessing the power amassed over decades to do good in the community.

But, she said, that along with being a powerful advocate, he was forthright and not shy to share an opinion. And often, she says, with those opinions came lessons.

She remembers one particular board meeting when the staff was making a presentation.  King interrupted them to say they were using too much jargon and that they needed to use language that the common person understood.

She says that lesson changed how her staff provides information to board members and others. This, she said, allows them to take difficult subject matter and present it in a way that people can relate to, which means it has a bigger impact.

“That one interaction, when he was like, ‘That is not working, fix it. If I have to spend time away from my wife, I want to be able to tell her why,’ that plays in my head, over and over,” she says. “Just today, I was having that same conversation with my staff.”  

Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Chamber, says he was a project manager on the chamber’s Committee of 100 when he met King in the mid-1980s.

King, he says, “was a community leader who was known for doing what he thought should be done and he was willing to step on a few toes to make things happen.”

“I liked his style.  He pushed the norm where it needed to go, but farther than some wanted it to go, which was good.”

Over the years the two grew close and, despite his eminence in the community, King continued to meet and mentor young people.

“Guy was an excellent person for me to discuss ideas with and work out the kinks,” Rohrlack says. 

King, he says, had a good understanding of who would like ideas and how to win over the board to get support. And he was willing to tackle difficult situations. “You may not like what he told you but you would respect that he did tell you.”

“Guy was Guy, whether people liked it or not. He was not worried about a fan club.”

Yet, scroll through the dozens of comments left below his online obituary website and that’s exactly what you will find, a fan club.

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