Mack N. Cleveland Jr. lived a life rich with experience, accomplishment and public service.
The Sanford native served in World War II. He worked as a state legislator in the 1950s and 1960s, becoming House speaker pro tem and, ultimately, a state senator.
He then left politics and built a successful legal career. For many years he worked as general counsel for Stetson University. All told, Cleveland enjoyed a 56-year membership in The Florida Bar before retiring three years ago.
His wife, Mary Anne Cleveland, said a favorite saying conveyed his wisdom and modesty. Mack Cleveland enjoyed saying, "You can never listen yourself into trouble."
Mack Cleveland died Sunday of advanced Parkinson's disease. He was 86.
Mary Anne Cleveland said her husband loved being a lawyer, but avoided bringing cases home with him, placing a premium on respecting client privacy.
"He was an old-time lawyer. He counseled people," she said. "Half the time he didn't even charge them for a consult."
Cleveland also was a much sought-after bachelor. He was considered Seminole County's most eligible bachelor, his wife said. Handsome, successful, well-connected, Cleveland did not marry until he was 60.
When Mary Anne Cleveland married him in 1984, she said, "There was a long line of disappointed females."
Having represented people going through divorce, Cleveland never wanted that for himself, she said.
That is, until he met Mary Anne, a divorced schoolteacher with three kids who became his stepchildren. She found him to be a "nice Southern gentleman."
Bill Whitaker enjoyed a long friendship with Cleveland from their days as undergraduates and law students at Stetson University to vacation getaways to New York and Europe much later in life. The fact that Cleveland remained single for so long "distinguished him," Whitaker also noted.
"He was quite a catch," said Whitaker, explaining that his friend had many female admirers through the years. "The man made a lot of dough. And he was completely honest."
Cleveland served as a Democrat when he was in politics, but later became a Republican. Later in life, Cleveland returned to his alma mater in DeLand, working as general counsel for Stetson University for many years until 2004.
"He was an astute attorney, very methodical and disciplined in his work," said Jim Beasley, former Stetson vice president and current professor of business administration.
Cleveland oversaw everything from property purchases to lawsuits, and Beasley said Stetson benefited for years from his counsel.
Within the past couple of years, Cleveland's Parkinson's disease progressed, and his wife moved him from their Longwood home into a private facility, where one caretaker said his life had been enriched and changed for "having taken care of Mack," Mary Anne Cleveland said.
Cleveland enjoyed golf and a place he kept to relax in New Smyrna Beach. He was a longtime member of First Baptist Church of Sanford and most recently was a member of Longwood Hills Congregational Church.
He is also survived by three stepchildren, Darvin Boothe Jr. of Tampa; Rebekah Boothe Corley of Sanford; and Robert Boothe of Orlando; sister Mary Cleveland McCoy of DeBary; and five grandchildren.
Anthony Colarossi can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5447.