Long before Mayor Dick Greco was attempting to become the oldest Mayor in the history of Tampa, he was the youngest. Before he boasted of the experience he would bring to the mayoral position, he was the mayor with little experience. Before he was a political legend with his own statue, he had to defeat a political legend that was posthumously honored with a statue. Before he became Mayor Dick Greco, he had to defeat Mayor Nick Nuccio in the 1967 mayoral election, one of the hottest elections the city of Tampa has ever seen, an election that billed the young, handsome upstart against the old political legend. It was a heavyweight battle that changed the history of the city of Tampa forever. And it was a battle that started in 1963 when Mayor Dick Greco was known as City Councilman Dick Greco.
January 10, 2011, marked the 150th anniversary of Florida’s secession from the United States. Florida followed South Carolina and Mississippi and was the third state to leave the Union. The Civil War began three months later when Southern forces fired on Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The opening shots of the war were almost directed at Fort Pickens in Pensacola Harbor, but President Abraham Lincoln decided to resupply the South Carolina fort instead.
Travel down 7th Avenue in Ybor City far enough, and eventually, you'll come to a rough-looking neighborhood by the train tracks. The warehouses in the area stand empty, and a few convenience stores pop up every couple of miles. The grass needs cutting, the bushes need trimming, and some low-slung buildings must either be demolished or rehabbed.
"Flagler's Folly" is what they called it: A railroad across the Florida Keys. More than a few people thought that the financier and developer, at age 71, had stepped over the line to senility when he proposed the project. Skepticism was enormous despite Henry Flagler's reputation as the man whose railway, steamship, and hotel ventures had brought much of Florida from backwoods to modernity in a few busy decades. Flagler's rail network in the Sunshine State–the Florida East Coast Railway–was his most celebrated work, laying hundreds of miles of track and linking Florida's eastern and southern parts with the civilized world.
During the 1940s, Tampa was embroiled in political corruption. Organized crime and political patronage were rampant. So, with the aid of a few close friends, Albert Knapp began publishing an underground newspaper. The mimeographed paper featured open letters mysteriously signed "Abispo Verdi" in a squiggly hand. Knapp certified each letter using a green stamp pad as "official" with the impression of an anopheles mosquito poised to strike. Albert selected the name Abispo Verdi to mimic the popular radio show, The Green Hornet. He wrote his manifestos in a broken English dialect using Spanish and Italian words that confused grammar and spelling. Each manifesto focused on a particular local scandal and illuminated dirty tricks and chicanery, often in verse and always in ingenuous and humorous terms, with names changed slightly: Raul became Baul (meaning footlocker); Spoto became Spots; Spicola became SpiCocaCola.