George Williamson, GOP Lawmaker In The 70s, Dies


When I started as a reporter in Broward, the Republicans controlled the county’s legislative delegation.  

One of key members of that GOP coalition was George Williamson, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer and real estate investor.

When he died at 72 earlier this month, Williamson’s role in Broward politics was mostly forgotten.

First elected in 1970 to the Florida House, Williamson was a 32-year-old lawyer from Chattanooga by way of the University of North Carolina Law School. 

Broward’s Republican strength was at a height.  The county was essentially conservative, but the local GOP was much more conservative than the average voter. The John Birch Society –they saw Communists everywhere!– influenced the GOP organization and the local candidates.   

Republican Party was the party of Nixon.  The Democratic Party was the party of  McGovern and the hippies running around on campuses.

The Democratic Party was also the party of Lyndon Johnson, who ended segregation and a lot of voters objected to that.

And Republicans represented resistance to the liberal Democratic seniors  moving here in droves.  They were changing the politics, demographics and size of Broward and the oldtimers didn’t like it. 

So Republicans ruled the roost for a few years until the Democratic seniors overpowered them at the voting booth. For 10 years,  Williamson was part of that GOP power structure.   

After six years in the House, Williamson was elected to the Senate in 1976.  He joined two other Republican Senators from Broward Van Poole and Jim Scott.  The only Democratic senator was Ken Jenne.

Although Broward was quickly becoming a Democratic stronghold, the three Republicans were kept in power long after others were defeated because of gerrymandering.  Their districts stretched into Republican Palm Beach and Collier Counties.

Williamson was a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, which was all-important to Broward.  The county was trying to get approval for an airport expansion and a new highway, which eventually became Interstate 595.  

I loved watching Williamson in Tallahassee.  

His courtly Tennessee drawl and prominent mustache always reminded me of a Southern gentleman.  Everytime I interviewed him, this urban boy imagined he had stepped onto the set of   “Gone With The Wind.”

In 1980, Williamson lost a re-election bid to J. W. “Bill Stevens, a Republican county commissioner from 1962-78. The campaign was messy and Williamson was attacked over the condition of property he rented to mostly-minority, low-income tenants in Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Hallandale.

I didn’t really see Williamson around in politics after that race. I was frequently reminded of him when I drove past his distinctive law office in an old house at 1111 SE Third Avenue in Fort Lauderdale.

By the way, Stevens was defeated  two years later when Senate District 29 was reapportioned to exclude Palm Beach and Collier Counties voters.  The new compact District 29 elected Peter Weinstein, a Democrat who is now a circuit court judge.

7 Responses to “George Williamson, GOP Lawmaker In The 70s, Dies”

  1. Kevin says:

    Buddy, thanks for the history lesson! It is always interesting to here about when Broward was Republican…. and it was not so long ago. Just goes to show you how fast politics in Flrida can change.


  2. GOPapa says:

    Nice article about a good Republican who few in the party know today. We all should remember those who came before us and fought to keep the principals of the Republican Party alive.

  3. James says:

    Buddy.. we are lucky to have a journalist that knows south Florida and it’s history as well as you do. Always enjoy reading your stuff.

  4. Jack Moss says:

    Buddy … thanks for remembering George. He was always available to discuss any issue, and had a great sense of humor.

    FROM BUDDY: Jack Moss is a pioneer GOP officer holder who was elected to the county commission in 1972.

  5. Thunder says:

    I was proud to know George and to be considered a friend. He was one of a kind.

  6. tom lubart says:

    i always considered george to be a stuffed shirt. my favorite story about him was when he lost it when david lane flew them through a thunderstorm in lane’s plane. (I have my own share of lane flying stories)
    those were the days, randy avon, dan bass, art rude, charlie boyd, and tom mcpherson (to name a few)
    tom lubart

    Tom Lubart is a former Sun-Sentinel political writer, who also worked on the Fort Lauderdale News for a short time. Lubart covered Tallahassee in the early and mid-1970s. He left Fort Lauderdale and went into TV, eventually working as a producer for ABC and Channel 5 in New York City. He currently lives in NYC.

    Randy Avon, Dan Bass, Art Rude, Charlie Boyd, and Tom Mcpherson were all in the state Legisalture, representing Broward.


    I met George Williamson in 1970, a member of the FL House. He and his beautiful wife Andrea lived in a penthouse apartment on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. His neighbor was NY Jets Joe Nammath. We all socialized frequently together.
    George was my very good friend and mentor who asked me to manage his winning 1980 campaign for the FL Senate while was a clerk in his law office. He was born in WAYNESVILLE, NC (NEVER from TN). He was affable, extremely intelligent with a great sense of humor and excellent memory.
    NOT A “stuffed shirt” but he did not tolerate negative people. George could quote FL law verbatim. He and I spent many nights playing Gin Rummy and kept an ongoing score. I miss my friend and a host of old timers in BROWARD politics.