RECOGNIZING THOM RUMBERGER; Congressional Record Vol. 157, No. 120
(Senate - August 02, 2011)

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[Pages S5234-S5235]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                       RECOGNIZING THOM RUMBERGER

  Mr. NELSON of Florida. Madam President, I rise to recognize the 
important contributions of a special Floridian for his unrelenting 
determination to protect one of our Nation's unique natural resources; 
that is, the Florida Everglades. He is a prestigious attorney. He is a 
commanding litigator. This individual, Thom Rumberger, has dedicated 
much of his personal and professional life to advancing the restoration 
and protection of the river of grass. His brilliant, incisive mind, his 
creativity, and his fearlessness combine to make Thom one of Florida's 
most influential Everglades leaders.
  He has been a man proud to serve his country and his community. It 
goes back to the time he interrupted his college career to volunteer 
for the Marines. He served in the Korean war. Over the course of his 
life, he has continued this service as a dedicated public servant, a 
respected judge, and a respected prosecutor.
  In his family, he is a dedicated father and grandfather who obviously 
has always found great happiness with that ever-expanding family of 
his, and the relentless efforts he undertakes to preserve Florida's 
natural heritage is a legacy gift, certainly to his family and to his 
colleagues but to all us Floridians--indeed, to us as residents of 
planet Earth.
  He served 2 years in the Marines, earned his degree with honors, a 
law degree, and was associate editor of the Florida Law Review. He 
became the youngest circuit judge serving in a district in central 
Florida. He was the Brevard County solicitor, he was special assistant 
State attorney, he was county attorney for Seminole County, he was 
Assistant to the Florida Governor, and he served as a member of the 
Florida Land Sales Board.
  I knew Thom back in those early days in Melbourne and Brevard County 
as we were experiencing the explosive growth, at the time, of the 
Nation's attempt to catch up with the Soviet Union since they had 
surprised us by putting up Sputnik and then later beat us into orbit 
with Yuri Gagarin before we could get Alan Shepard into suborbit and 
then John Glenn into orbit.
  Those were exciting times. I will never forget I heard Thom, as we 
were sitting around one day, saying I am impatient having to sleep 
because I am so excited about getting up in the morning and going out 
and doing all these things. Of course, I just listed all those 
important positions of public service.
  Along the way, Thom became a good friend of another Brevard County 
man, George Barley. Actually, I think George was from Orange County. 
George was married to Mary. Both of them dedicated their lives to 
restoration of the Everglades. George and Mary established the 
Everglades Trust and the Everglades Foundation and then, when George 
died a very tragic death back in 1995, Thom joined with Mary to make 
sure George Barley's dream of a restored Everglades became a reality.
  Thom was an active member of the Republican Party, but I can tell you 
that in the friendship between us, partisan membership did not mean 
anything. We had a personal friendship, and one could often see that as 
he engaged in public service, but that was especially so when it came 
to the preservation and the restoration of the Everglades. His success 
extends, other than his community and country service, to a career in 
private practice. He was one of the founding partners of Rumberger, 
Kirk & Caldwell, and under Thom's leadership the firm's modest 
beginnings were quickly surpassed as it moved to all kinds of new legal 
successes. Today, that firm includes 75 trial attorneys in 5 offices 
all across several southern States. Of course, he has been listed as 
one of Florida's superlawyers every year for the last several years.
  Legend has it Thom Rumberger once convinced a Federal judge to allow 
a real automobile in the courtroom as

[[Page S5235]]

evidence. He convinced the judge to have a window in the courtroom 
enlarged--in a historic courthouse, nonetheless--to accommodate a crane 
that lifted the car right into the courtroom. He has been known 
throughout his life for his infectious sense of humor, often referred 
to--because he had so many different careers--somewhat derisively as a 
career chameleon. Thom worked his way all the way through college, all 
the way up to these present successes.
  Let me tell you what he did to support himself and to pay for his 
college education. A lot of people do not remember Ross Allen's Reptile 
Institute in Ocala, at Silver Springs. Guess what the main attraction 
was: the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Thom's job, at which he 
earned enough money to put himself through school, was to milk those 
rattlesnakes.
  Clearly, that is a tourist attraction because that is a fascinating 
thing, to see that snake coiled up, ready to strike, and they stick a 
stick down there and pin his head and then reach down behind the head 
and pick him up and they have this 6-foot rattlesnake. But there is a 
purpose to this other than charming their guests. They squeeze behind 
that head and the mouth opens and those two fangs come out and they put 
those fangs down into a glass and they milk that rattlesnake. The 
poisonous venom that was then collected and stored becomes the basis 
for the anti-snake bite serum that has saved so many lives. I remember 
one time he actually went back after he had been judge and prosecutor 
and all these things. He told me he was invited to come back to the 
Ross Allen Reptile Institute. He said when he walked into that cage 
with all those rattlesnakes, the snakes looked so big. He didn't 
remember the snakes looking that big when he was a college kid earning 
his way through college. Thom promises that it was right there in that 
snakepit that he learned the skills of public speaking and working with 
the public because he had to explain how he was milking the rattlesnake 
to all of the guests who were there, and obviously he had their 
attention.

  He even enjoyed a brief acting career as a stuntman for the movie 
``The Creature of the Black Lagoon.'' Remember that one that scared the 
wits out of all of us when we were children, ``The Creature of the 
Black Lagoon''? He has had quite a few varieties in his life.
  He has generously committed himself to public service. Beyond the 
positions I have already mentioned, he was appointed to Florida's 
Federal Judicial Advisory Commission and the Board of Supervisors of 
the Spaceport Florida Authority. Presently, he is chairman of the 
Everglades Trust. He has served as chairman of the Collins Center for 
Public Policy, which was named after one of our great Governors of 
Florida--former Governor, now deceased--Gov. Leroy Collins. He has been 
a member of the Board of Visitors of Florida State College of Law and 
Board of Trustees for the Law Center Association of the University of 
Florida. He has represented about every environmental organization, 
including Save the Manatee, the Everglades Trust, and Save Our 
Everglades. He has been the lead counsel for the Everglades Foundation 
well past two decades.
  Notably, Thom was instrumental in the passage of two Everglades-
related Florida constitutional amendments, the Federal Comprehensive 
Everglades Restoration Plan, and in obtaining several billion dollars 
in funding for Everglades restoration. That has been one of my primary 
duties as the senior Senator from Florida, and I have worked with him 
over the years on this Everglades restoration.
  He has been primarily responsible for Florida's acquisition of one of 
our natural resources, the 75,000-acre Babcock Ranch in the southwest 
part of Florida, which now provides necessary corridors for wildlife, 
especially the endangered Florida panther. In the late 1980s, Thom 
worked to implement some of the first manatee protection laws.
  Throughout his four decades in public service, he has demonstrated 
the importance of looking out for the common good.
  I just did an interview today in the aftermath of our vote on what 
started out to be highly contentious on what we were going to resolve 
in debt reduction and deficit reduction with the pending guillotine 
hanging over our head, the default that would occur at 12 tonight, 
which has now been averted. The reporter who was asking me the 
questions in the interview said: Well, why is it that everything is so 
contentious and people are all so wrapped up in themselves that they 
talk past each other and they are only looking out for their own 
interests and don't respect the other fellow's point of view?
  Thom Rumberger represents that kind of person who always respected 
the other person's point of view. So when it was time to draw up the 
solution to whatever the problem was, then the parties could come 
together and find that consensus. That has been sorely lacking in 
Washington and around this country. We saw a shining little moment 
yesterday and today--yesterday in the House of Representatives with an 
overwhelming vote and today on the floor of the Senate with an 
overwhelming vote--to start the process of deficit reduction. It is 
folks such as Thom Rumberger whom we ought to be looking to in how they 
have demonstrated their community service instead of what we have seen 
play out over the last several months.
  Thanks to the selfless commitment of folks such as Thom, America's 
Everglades will be restored for the benefit of future generations. It 
is not just Florida, it is America that owes Thom a great deal of 
gratitude. My bride of 40 years, Grace, who has known Thom almost as 
long as I have, joins me in thanking him and his wife Debbie for their 
many contributions to Florida's treasured landscapes.
  I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Casey.) Without objection, it is so 
ordered.

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