Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Herbert Lee Underwood 1931-2014; Helped Build Jacksonville as Master of Grants Understood Land Use and How to Attract Federal Money for Housing, Colleges, Downtown

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Herbert Lee Underwood 1931-2014; Helped Build Jacksonville as Master of Grants Understood Land Use and How to Attract Federal Money for Housing, Colleges, Downtown

Article excerpt

Byline: Derek Gilliam

Herbert "Herb" Lee Underwood would look at a piece of land and develop a vision of how it could best be used.

He knew where the infrastructure should go. He knew how to acquire the land.

While serving under two mayors, he played crucial roles in consolidating Jacksonville, building Florida State College at Jacksonville's downtown campus, acquiring the land for the University of North Florida and shaping downtown.

Mr. Underwood, 83, died Tuesday after a massive stroke that happened last week on the 61st anniversary of his marriage to Addie.

Elaine Burford said her father had surgery at Memorial Hospital and she was with him when it happened. She said he was excited to see his wife later that day, had shaved and then joked about convincing the doctors he was strong enough to take his wife to dinner. He then took a nap and didn't wake up.

"He loved people. He loved to talk. He loved his family and his church," Burford said.

Mr. Underwood served in the Navy as a radio operator during the Korea War, earned a engineering degree from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and climbed to a senior position in planning and engineering at the federal Housing and Urban Development district office for the Southeastern states.

Mr. Underwood also studied city planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his family said.

Herbert Lee Underwood Jr. said his father's understanding of the federal government's grant programs made him valuable to city officials.

Mayor Hans Tanzler tapped him to be the first executive director of Jacksonville's Housing and Urban Development Department in 1969. His efforts there landed Jacksonville millions in federal grants for urban renewal programs.

In the early 1980s, he headed the Downtown Development Authority - which preceded the Downtown Investment Authority - under Mayor Jake Godbold. While interim director, about $160 million in new development sprouted in the city.

Godbold said Mr. Underwood was well-respected and always did a good job. Mr. Underwood left government work for private enterprise several times, but returned. …

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