Every town has at least
one...Jim Fair counted for ten. This decorated World War II hero
returned to Tampa after the war to start Tampa's premier discount
"Get It For You Wholesale" Center on South Franklin
Street, just north of where the Crosstown Expressway would eventually
pass by. That was long before skyscrapers made their appearance
Jim was Tampa's beloved eccentric and political
gadfly, a nut who started the Salvation Navy at the three story
brick building on the east side of Franklin Street. There, Fair
sold novelties and useful items to people who didn't have much
money...and he gave street people a place to hang out for the
night. He was friendly, always had a smile on his face, but was
quick to file lawsuits about almost anything. He often said he
"never met a lawsuit he didn't like."
Fair was often jailed for contempt of court
for mouthing off at judges and witnesses in open court. If he
had something to say, he'd say it no matter what the rules were
or who was present...and he was always willing to accept the consequences
and sue to have them changed.
He ran dozens of advertisements in every issue
of The Tampa Tribune with his famous phone number, 2-2222 which
later changed to 229-2222. He had to sue the phone company to
get that particular number. He tried to get the courts to give
him 1-1111 but didn't get a favorable ruling. Each advertisement
he placed boasted that FAIR could "Get It 4 U Wholesale,"
whatever it was you wanted.
Ironically, he filed many lawsuits against
the newspaper for not getting its facts straight and his love-hate
relationship with reporters was legend. If there was a slow news
day, and there often was in the fifties and sixties, Fair could
always be counted on for a weird turn or two that would entertain
Jim Fair was part of the local and well-respected
Farrior family of lawyers and doctors but changed his name in
the fifties as a symbol of his disowning the establishment he
felt they were a part of. He despised anything "government"
yet ran dozens of times for everything from mayor to county commissioner
to state senator.
One year, he ran for Tampa mayor and as a publicity
stunt rode his bicycle off the Platt Street bridge before a crowd
of hundreds who came to see if he would drown. "Not a chance
of that happening," Fair declared.
When he ran for each office, he always sued
to have the filing fees declared unconstitutional. Failing at
that, he found other loopholes to get his name on the ballot.
After multiple failures at office seeking, a tired electorate
finally voted him into the Supervisor of Election's Office in
1964. By 1966, he had screwed the operations of the rather obscure
office up so bad that then Governor Claude Kirk had to remove
him and appoint a successor. But he did put it on the map.
Fair spent nearly a decade of his post political
years in Tampa filing lawsuits, many directed at the Florida Public
Service Commission and local utilities alleging corruption and
lack of public interest.
In the mid-seventies, Hillsborough County took
Fair's Salvation Navy property by condemnation to make way for
entrances to the soon-to-be built Crosstown Expressway. He sued
to keep his property but lost. In protest, he never picked up
the check for nearly $300,000 in payment that remained for him
with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. He once directed WFLA-TV
reporter Tony Zappone to go pick up the check and then called
the clerk not to release it to him.
In 1976, as part of an agreement with a local
court who had held him in contempt for numerous violations of
conduct, he left Hillsborough County for the state capitol.
He wasn't in Tallahassee five minutes when
he became the same center of media attention he had been in Tampa.
He made speeches everywhere people would listen and sometimes
he even made sense. In 1980, he ran unsuccessfully against State
Senator Dempsey Barron (D-Panama City), again protesting the qualifying
Fair remained in Tallahassee, fighting the
utility companies and big business in local and state courts.
He lived modestly in an apartment until his death in the early
He seldom made sense, he was weird but he was
loved and his passing left a big gap in the collective souls of
Tampa and Tallahassee when he was around no more.