Connie Mack III returns to Cape Coral roots, discusses new book, ‘Citizen Mack’

David Dorsey
 
| Fort Myers News-Press

The legacy in leadership experience inherited by Connie Mack III goes deeper than just his father’s side of the family.

Mack, 80, is known for being the grandson of Connie Mack, also known for his legal name, Cornelius McGillicuddy. That Connie Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics of Major League Baseball in the 1920s at Terry Park in Fort Myers, which introduced him to the area.

From 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, retired U.S. Senator Connie Mack III will be on hand at the newly-rebranded Cape Coral Museum of History at 544 Cultural Park Blvd. There, he will discuss and sign copies of his new book, “Citizen Mack,” published earlier this fall by Brown Books.

In the Know: Cape Coral Historical Museum rebrands, brings in Connie Mack III

Mack, a 1958 Fort Myers High School graduate, went on to the University of Florida but returned to the area shortly thereafter, first in real estate, then in banking, then as the area’s congressman in the 1980s and as one of Florida’s two U.S. senators in the 1990s.

The book encompasses Mack III’s full life story, from the death of his brother Michael to cancer, which helped inspire his congressional run, to all he saw during his 18 years of public service, first in Congress, then in the Senate. Mack discusses his decisions and voting history in government, including voting for war after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and the impeachment proceedings of President Bill Clinton in 1999. 

“You may not know this, but it’s my mother’s side of the family that is the political side of the family,” Mack said. “I have a great grandfather who was a member of the House of Representatives in the 1800s.”

John Sheppard served in the house, representing Texas, from 1899 until his death in 1902. His son, Morris Sheppard, who is Mack’s maternal grandfather, was appointed to fill John Sheppard’s seat.

Morris Sheppard was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 1912. He played a role in writing U.S. Prohibition-era laws.

“In those days, U.S. senators were appointed by the state legislature,” Mack said. “He remained in the Senate until 1941.”

In 1941, Sheppard died. Connie Mack’s grandmother Lucile Sanderson remarried another U.S. Senator, Tom Connally, who served until 1952.

“It would have been fascinating to have been able to have read about all of that,” Mack said.

Combine that with constant pleas from his family and friends to write a book about his own life and service, and Mack finally obliged.

“This book was written over four or five years,” he said. “It took a lot of time. It took a lot of effort. It was done at a pace that was very comfortable.

“I’ve been doing a lot of readings over the years of biographies of American presidents. Historians talk about how important it is to get all these bits of information from different sources.”

With the book complete, Mack now can consider himself retired.

“I still am stepping back,” he said. “I have pretty much retired from all of my business activities. I’ve stepped down from my boards at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. In the book, you’ll get a feel for why I was interested in doing that.”

Michael Mack, Connie’s brother, was diagnosed with melanoma at age 23 and died at age 35.

“He fought the disease for 12 years, which was highly unusual in those days,” Mack said. “I became very involved. Led the effort to double the funding for the National Institute for Health.”

After leaving public office, Mack served on the boards of two biotechnology companies, GenZyme and Exact Sciences.

Mack lives on Palm Island, accessible only by boat. It is part of Charlotte County and a luxury island neighbor of Boca Grande, which part of Lee County.

“It reminded me of what Fort Myers was like when we were kids, growing up,” Mack said. Fort Myers had a population of about 15,000 in the 1950s. Palm Island has about 2,200 people. “It’s so quiet. And natural.”

Mack said he looked forward to talking about his book and his history in Cape Coral at the museum event Saturday.

“I was chairman of the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce,” Mack said. “One of our projects was to pursue the building of a hospital in Cape Coral. We built the Cape Coral Hospital from scratch. From nothing. We had no resources. Fortunately, the development company provided 20 acres of land. The city council allocated $100,000 in seed money to get ourselves organized and develop a plan, arrange for architectural work.”

Mack also will discuss his dalliances with twice almost becoming the vice presidential nominee for the Republican party, first for Bob Dole in 1996, then for George W. Bush in 2000.

“Bob and I had very serious discussions,” Mack said. “My name kept staying on it until the very end. It came down to me or Jack Kemp.

“The second time was when George W. ran in 2000. Dick Cheney was in charge of the selection process. George W wanted me to be his running mate. I said, no.”

Mack said he had no regrets.

“Not at all,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed my life.”

When someone recently asked Mack about the book’s title, he gave the full version: “Citizen Mack: Politics, An Honorable Calling.”

“It’s fiction, huh?” the man said.

Mack could not help but to laugh.

“That was a pretty good line,” he said.

Connect with this reporter: David Dorsey (Facebook), @DavidADorsey (Twitter).

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