For 27 years, retired journalist and civics teacher Phillip David Tucker dressed in his cotton white and blue pinstripe suit and holding his trusty cane would come to City Hall to hold the city commissioners accountable. Although Mr. Tucker passed on July 13th, his memory forever lives on in the annals of South Miami history and his legacy is fittingly represented by the brass tag that bears his name along with the red, white and blue ribbons at the front row center seat he always occupied.
“He was the first one to speak at city commission meetings during citizen comment and nine times out of 10, he would talk about patriotism, constitutional law and respect for government,” said retired South Miami principal Richard Ward. “Sometimes he would take the commission to task for things he did not feel they were doing right.”
His daughter Lisa agrees. “He could really ruffle some feathers, but he didn’t seem to care if he was popular or not, he was undaunted,” she said. “He would read every single page of the commission meeting packet beforehand and long before the audio visual back-up he had a true point of reference on city politics. He was unafraid to point out the shenanigans of those in office and hold their feet to the fire.”
In his pockets, Mr. Tucker always carried with him a handful of cellophane wrapped red and white striped peppermint candies to give out to folks he might encounter at church, the hospital or grocery store throughout the day. His motto was “you never really know what burden someone is leaving their house with or what bumps in the road they may be encountering in life, so always be kind to strangers.” He would offer a peppermint candy and say “remember, God loves you.”
Daughter Lisa said those candies also served as a point of contemplation or meditation for Mr. Tucker. “He declared, ‘if I’m not going to say something nice to someone, I’ll take a minute and put a peppermint candy in my mouth and think on it. Over the years, I ate a whole lot of peppermint candy,’” she recalled him saying. “It was symbolic and it was a reminder to pause before making big decisions that will affect your future. When I was at a crossroads in my life, changing careers or moving, he would remind me to truly reflect before making big decisions.”
Along with his candies, Mr. Tucker also always carried with him a pocket-size version of the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence. “When I took him to his doctor appointments and we would be sitting in the waiting room, he would never read the magazines, but rather the constitution,” said Lisa. “It always sparked conversation with people around us, often from other countries, who would inquire about what he was reading. It seems like a small thing, but over months and months he did this and tried to set an example. He just felt like that if you followed the path the forefathers set down for us you would not veer too far to the right or the left, but rather maintain a steady course. He believed in serving God, country, and family and tried to maintain that until the end. Even when he was in great pain he would say, ‘God I don’t understand this, but I know I am worthy of it and I can handle it.
’” David Tucker was originally from Macon, Georgia. He ran high school cross country and graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism and advertising. He completed two years at The Citadel before being drafted in 1941. Mr. Tucker served in the 11th Field Artillery of the 24th Infantry Division of the United States Army in the South Pacific before being honorably discharged. He is survived by his wife Helen, daughters Lisa and Leslie and son Bill.
In 2008, he received a key to the city of South Miami for his unwavering dedication to democracy. A resolution was recently passed by the city expressing sympathy to his family for his passing and acknowledging him as a “great humanitarian with absolute integrity who put the best interests of the community before his personal interests and served with distinction in a long list of public offices.” On August 15th, David Tucker would have turned 92 years old.