Our friend and leader was born Anthony Whitfield Bates in Jacksonville on May 5, 1934 and all too soon shuffled off this mortal coil on August 29, 2012. Tony was an inspiration to us all in his selfless dedication to the cause of honest and transparent local government and home rule. After service in the Korean War Tony was involved in local politics before consolidation and he joined and rose to the presidency of the Junior Chamber, the Jaycees, at a time when virtually every successful candidate for public office in Jacksonville came up through their ranks.
Yet although Tony ran at least once he discovered that his calling to service to the community was not to be as an elected politician. Observing over the decades that power corrupts, Tony refused to participate in dishonest schemes and gradually came to realize that it is the nature of those who handle public money to come to regard it as their own, and spend it in ways to benefit themselves and their friends if not to transfer to themselves outright.
Arguably Tony became obsessed with trying to keep our government honest, open, and above-board. He knew it was too large a task for one person yet it was almost impossible to recruit others with both the passion and the time for the kind of public service that Tony became committed to. His life was arranged around his own need to attend as many committee meetings, study groups, and watchdog functions as possible, all the while going to political gatherings hoping to recruit like-minded citizens for the great task of shadowing the decision-makers.
After his official retirement but before the illnesses of the past few years made it impossible to continue, Tony delivered the Times-Union since the early morning hours were free of public sector activity. When he became sick, he rushed his convalescence so that he could resume monitoring our officials, with no regard to his own discomfort or physical needs. Health conditions that would have deterred nearly all of us from travel or spending long hours sitting and observing the operations of government did not stop Tony, who could have still made substantial contributions by watching City Council and its committees on the internet, but who properly felt that the physical presence of independent citizen observers makes a difference in the outcome of events. So in the absence of excruciating pain (and sometimes in its presence, as those of us who saw Tony wince now and again can testify) Tony Bates would drive himself, literally and figuratively, to endless venues to make the point that there are at least a few who watch and wait.