Hillsborough County native John Germany saw a lot of action in World War II, commanding a tank unit in European Theater.
But an all-time memory comes from something more basic: the day he handed a box of Tampa-made cigars to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Germany received a personal thank you letter from Churchill after the war.
Germany, who played key roles in launching three Tampa-area institutions — the University of South Florida, the Holland & Knight law firm and the downtown Tampa library — died from cancer Aug. 26. He was 92.
Germany, says Holland & Knight Tampa executive partner Brad Kimbro, never let his lofty accomplishments go to his head. He often took associates and interns to lunch, usually to Mel's Hot Dogs in Tampa. Germany liked to make an event of it. “He went out of his way to get to know everybody regardless of position,” says Kimbro.
Germany grew up in Plant City and is a graduate of Plant City High School and the University of Florida. After the military, he went to Harvard Law School. His first career after law school was in politics, when he advised Florida Gov. LeRoy Collins on legislative affairs in the 1950s. He was also a judge in the 13th Judicial Circuit.
He left the bench to become a partner in the law firm of Knight, Jones, Whitaker & Germany. When the firm merged with another practice in 1968, says Kimbro, to form Holland & Knight, Germany initially suggested a different name, half-jokingly saying it could be Holland & Germany.
Germany worked at the firm for more than 40 years, retiring when he turned 90. During that time Germany developed a reputation as a go-to civic leader in Tampa. Politicians on all levels went to him for advice.
And working with Gov. Collins, he was one of a few who led the efforts to establish USF in 1956, according to his official obituary and a statement from the college. He was the second president of the board of the USF Foundation, and was awarded a president's Fellow Medallion in 2012 for his help in launching the school.
Germany also led the effort to build and fund a new downtown library, which opened in 1968. The library was dedicated “The John F. Germany Library” in 1999.
Kimbro says Germany was a mentor to many at the firm, and in the Tampa legal community. One standout lesson: A combination of civility and passion is the best way to convince others of a point of view.
“He was a true gentleman,” says Kimbro. “I don't recall ever seeing him yell at anyone about anything.”
Germany was predeceased by his wife of 57 years, Mary Ellen Germany. He's survived by four children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.