Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Moral Compass' Key for Ed Austin; the Tough Prosecutor Is Eulogized as Having 'Love ... at the Center' of His Life

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Moral Compass' Key for Ed Austin; the Tough Prosecutor Is Eulogized as Having 'Love ... at the Center' of His Life

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

Former Jacksonville Mayor Ed Austin was remembered during his funeral Thursday as a "loving and compassionate" man who was also "a John Wayne kind of a guy."

Austin was tough prosecutor and a visionary mayor, but "love was at the center of his life," said Audrey Moran, who worked for Austin when he was state attorney and when he was mayor.

"You were the joy of his life," she told Austin's family, while delivering a eulogy during a 90-minute service at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Riverside. "His proudest accomplishment was his family."

Also speaking during the morning service were Austin's son, Steve, and Episcopal Bishop Samuel Johnson Howard.

"Saturday morning I lost my hero," Steve Austin said, referring to his father's death at 84.

Howard said Austin, who had strong Christian faith and great humility, embodied the title of George Gallup's book, "The Saints Among Us."

Moran called him a "truly inspiring figure." A former Duke football player and Army paratrooper, Austin was a "man's man," Moran said.

But he was also an ardent supporter of the arts, particularly the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, and he was as proud of founding the Jacksonville Children's Commission as he was of landing a National Football League franchise in Jacksonville, Moran said.

Steve Austin said that although some people thought "Dad's greatest gift was his toughness as a prosecutor," he thought his father's "unique ability to find and cultivate great leaders" and his "uncanny moral compass," were equally important.

After serving as state attorney for two decades, Austin, 64 at the time, was asked by supporters to run for mayor in 1991.

"He didn't need the job," Moran said. "He wasn't sure he even wanted it."

But ultimately, she said, "where he felt he made the most impact was in his tenure as mayor."

AN EXPANSION OF LOVE

His list of accomplishments as mayor included the River City Renaissance, which built The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts and the Sulzbacher Center for Homeless and renovated the football stadium and the Jacksonville zoo. Under his leadership, City Hall was moved into a renovated St. James Building on Hemming Plaza.

Howard said that in his book "The Saints Among Us," Gallup had identified traits common to highly spiritual people. They are "more trusting, more optimistic, much more humble" than most people and have little race and class consciousness, Howard said. Austin, he said, epitomized those qualities.

After Austin attended a religious retreat about 20 years ago, he surprised his son by taking up the habit of saying "I love you" at every possible opportunity.

That retreat, Howard said, "expanded Ed's love, not just of God ... but of all of us, especially his family. …

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