A former Florida state Republican who was hailed as a “good and decent man” by his onetime Democratic opponent plunged to his death Monday from a highway overpass.
The Hillsborough County medical examiner ruled the death of Robert Wallace, 65, a suicide; his body was found lying on rocks near a Dale Mabry Highway overpass in the Tampa area, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
"He was a good and decent man," Brian P. Rush, the 1994 incumbent who lost to Wallace despite outspending him, told the newspaper. "He had a different philosophy, but I could sense that he was honorable. He really wanted to be in public service."
A witness told the medical examiner about seeing Wallace fall 40 to 50 feet before his body was found by responders after 7 p.m. Monday.
St. Timothy Catholic Church in Lutz, where a Mass will be held in the former lawmaker's honor on Monday, confirmed the death to Fox News.
Wallace spent eight years in Tallahassee fighting new taxes and government overreach, voting against bills that called for mandatory swimming pool fences and bicycle helmets, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
He got on the ballot after going around and collecting enough signatures.
"Truman said that money doesn’t win elections, people do. I wanted to prove that," Wallace said after he was first voted into office. "The key was reaching people, going out walking the district door to door and waving signs on Dale Mabry and in downtown Tarpon Springs."
After hitting his term limit in 2002, Wallace ran an environmental engineering company in the Tampa area, under the “belief that man can cause problems and man can solve those problems.”
The medical examiner’s office said Wallace had been grappling with depression at the time of his death and was taking medications for it.
"This just proves how much we don’t know about how to fight mental illness," former state Sen. John Grant, who worked with Wallace, told the newspaper.
The newspaper said Wallace is survived by his wife, a daughter and three sons.
"He was a true family man who loved and cared deeply for his community," his daughter, Amber Loper, said in a family statement read Wednesday, as quoted by the newspaper.
"He worked hard to give all he could back to others, which led him to start his environmental business, run for state office and volunteer for many organizations,” she added. “He will be deeply missed."