JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Whether it was as a city councilman, council president, mayor of Jacksonville or just a resident, Jake Godbold left his mark on the “Bold City.”
Godbold died Thursday at his Northside home. He was 86.
Here’s a look at his legendary life as an inspiring leader and a generous public servant who strived to improve the lives of the people of Jacksonville.
Years in public office
- Godbold was elected to Jacksonville City Council in 1967, just after consolidation. He served for 11 years.
- In 1978, while council president, Godbold was appointed to take Mayor Hans Tanzler’s place for the last six months of the term after Tanzler announced he would be resigning his position for governor.
- The following year, Godbold was elected to the first of his two terms as mayor.
- He was re-elected in 1983, serving a total of 8½ years in the mayor’s office.
City’s rapid growth
Under Godbold’s leadership, Jacksonville saw tremendous development, especially downtown, during what was called the “The Billion Dollar Decade."
- The Jacksonville Landing opened in June 1987 on the Northbank to much fanfare. When it opened, the riverfront mall included name-brand stores and restaurants, which were packed with customers. It was seen as an attraction that could bring downtown Jacksonville back to life.
- The Southbank Riverwalk was built.
- The old Union Terminal train station was converted into the Prime Osborn Convention Center.
- The Mayo Clinic opened in Jacksonville.
Modernization of fire department
- When he was mayor, Godbold helped an outdated, underpaid fire department become modern, professional and state of the art.
- Godbold started the Jacksonville Jazz Festival in collaboration with public television station WJCT.
- Godbold helped Jacksonville land one of the stops on Michael Jackson’s Victory Tour that traveled to 10 cities across America from July to December 1984. Not only did the tour come to Jacksonville, but the Jackson brothers performed three nights straight at the Gator Bowl, the city’s football stadium at the time.
- Godbold lit the spark of Colt fever, which led ultimately, two mayors later, to Jacksonville getting an NFL expansion team. More than 50,000 people would turn out in the old Gator Bowl in August 1979 to try to convince team owner Robert Irsay that “We want the Colts.” It wasn’t in the cards at the time, but the event got national attention and set the stage for Jacksonville’s long march to win its own NFL team. Godbold was at Channel 4 on that unforgettable day --Nov. 30, 1993 -- when the news came that the NFL was awarding Jacksonville an expansion team, 14 years after the then-mayor started this quest for the city’s future.
Life after public office
- Godbold worked tirelessly for various causes for the public good, including prevention of domestic violence in memory of his sister-in-law, Barbara Ann Campbell, who was killed. The Barbara Ann Campbell Memorial Breakfast recently celebrated its 25th year of raising awareness and funds for the Hubbard House, which released a statement Thursday, praising Godbold for his vocal support of survivors of domestic violence.
- In April 2018, Godbold wrote a letter to Mayor Lenny Curry, saying he believes the issue of JEA’s future “has been botched since the beginning” and questioning the choice of Aaron Zahn to serve as interim chief executive of the city-owned utility at the time.
- In September 2018, during a mayoral forum focusing on the 50th anniversary of Jacksonville’s consolidated government, Jake Godbold was arguably the most vocal of the six mayors who participated. He showed great emotion for the city and wasn’t afraid to point out areas that need improvement, such as education.
- On Oct. 1, 2018, during a Consolidation Commemoration, the Jacksonville Historical Society’s Task Force for Consolidation honored the then living members of the very first City Council under the new consolidated government, including Godbold.
- In May 2019, ahead of the demolition of the Landing, Godbold, who was responsible for the landmark, made another plea to Curry: let the public help decide its future.
- Godbold continued to speak out as recently as November 2019 when he took out a full-page advertisement in the Florida Times-Union, blasting JEA and Curry over the potential and ultimately aborted sale of JEA. He then spoke out about the issue at a special City Council committee.