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Friends, Associates Reflect On The Late Mayor Jake Godbold’s Legacy At Life Celebration

crowd of people watching as longineu plays the trumpet
Sky Lebron
Dr. Longineu Parsons plays the trumpet and performs "What a Wonderful World" at the late former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold's funeral.

Hundreds of people filed into Prime Osborn Convention Center to salute the life of the late former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold, who passed away in January at the age of 86.

“We’re here to celebrate,” said longtime News4Jax anchor Tom Wills. “He would want me to emphasize the word ‘celebrate’ - a life of legendary proportions.”

The Let it Ride Brass Band opened the event with “When the Saints Go Marching In” as they walked in with close friends and family.

Friends and former coworkers took to the podium to speak about Godbold’s legacy and impact on Jacksonville.

“Some of us were blessed enough to know him well,” Wills said. “And I’m sure there are perhaps some people here today who never met the man and yet still feel drawn to him. We all loved him.”

Near the beginning of Will’s reflection, he stopped to play a clip of Godbold last year at a City Council meeting, voicing his displeasure with JEA’s now-ended push to sell the utility and privatize.

“With Jake, what you saw is what you got,” Wills said. “You never had to question what he was thinking, what he believed or what he wanted because he told you.”

John Peyton, who served as mayor from 2003 to 2011, said it will be hard to imagine Jacksonville without Godbold in it.

Peyton first interned for Godbold in 1985.

“When I first went there, my early impressions were not particularly positive,” Peyton said. “It seemed like a chaotic environment. The mayor was under enormous stress, but it quickly became obvious to me that I had a front row seat in experiencing a leader that was extraordinary.”

Speakers talked about Godbold’s inspiring character, his passion for the city, and his care for the individuals he worked with and over.

A table with Jacksonville Jaguars memorabilia, and a picture of Godbold in the convention center lobby.
Credit Sky Lebron / WJCT News
After his run in politics, Godbold was involved in philanthropy. The Jake Godbold Memorial Fund at the Hubbard House was made in his name.

They spoke about some of the light-hearted moments they shared with him.

“He was my teacher,” said former Florida House Rep. Betty Holzendorf, who worked as an aide for Godbold. “Everything I know about politics, I learned it from Jake. So if I’m a bad politician, you all know where it comes from.”

In between the speakers were songs by local chorus groups, including the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus, the Atlantic Coast Chorus and the Edwards Waters College Choir.

Godbold was on the Jacksonville City Council from 1967 until 1979, serving as the council president until 1979. In 1978, he took the vacant position left by Mayor Hans Tanzler and remained mayor until 1987.

“He had two families,” Holzendorf said. “He has his family…and he had Jacksonville. Those were his two families.” 

Sky Lebron can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.  

Former WJCT News reporter