Jim King, a popular Florida Republican lawmaker and former Florida Senate President, died this past Sunday after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He will be cremated and interred at the year-old King Life Sciences Building on the Florida State University campus. FSU dedicated that building to King last year in recognition for his help in securing state funding for biomedical research.
King earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from FSU, and he will be the first person interred on a Florida public campus since lawmakers this spring passed legislation allowing the university to build columbariums, or permanent structures to hold alumni ashes. This bill, called the “Dead Gator Bill,” wasn’t the only piece of legislation that King will benefit from after death.
In 2007, King rewrote his will so that the ashes of a beloved dog, Valentine, could be buried with him. But, he learned that state cemetery regulations referred only to human remains, making no provisions for animals. So, King created what he called the “Felix and Fido” amendment to the state funeral bill, where animal remains in an urn can be buried with human remains or cremains as long as the remains don’t mingle.
That bill passed with flying colors, possibly because Florida is known for its elderly population. Older people often rely on their pets and become very attached to them during waning years when spouses, friends and relatives have passed on and life seems lonely. King received more constituent support on this bill than any other bill he sponsored to that point. He stated, “It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal, it’s just something I felt strongly about. But, all of a sudden, it hit someone’s heart strings.”
The bill passed without objection. Now, King will be interred with two of his dogs, Valentine and Gemini, two Labrador retrievers who passed on before King was diagnosed with cancer. King, who at times felt that his political stance was “somewhere between the dog and the fire hydrant,” may now rest in peace with his beloved canine friends, hopefully as far from a fire hydrant as possible.