“You fight with a skunk you smell like a skunk; we eat at 6
o’clock, not 6:01; a leopard can’t change his spots; be polite.’’
At dinner, Darren says, the boys were told to always stand
until all the girls and ladies are seated. And, he says, all those
at dinner had to be prepared to engage in conversation. “He
would aggravate you to make sure you were in the conversation
and had an opinion.’’
NEED FOR PRESTIGE
While Robin and Darren had grown to call TL Dad, TL’s
daughters, Kathy and Debra, were growing to view him more
as a caricature. Instead of calling him Dad, they called him
TL, a name many of his business associates used for him.
Debra recalls how he’d keep a thick money roll in his pocket,
with hundred dollar bills showing on the outside. “I told him
why don’t you put them on the inside so somebody doesn’t
knock you on the head,’’ she says. “Having money and being
prestigious to TL was his life. That’s what he wanted.’’
Kathy Sloan Blanton, who died Oct. 11 as this series was
being reported, recalled in interviews earlier this year another
difficult relationship TL had with Tee, the son TL fathered
from another relationship.
“He wanted Tee in his life but he never told Tee he loved
him,’’ Kathy said. “He always lorded money over him. Nobody
was ever good enough for TL.’’
THINGS GO SOUTH
Debra says TL and Jo Ann incurred a $675,000 tax bill from
the 1976 Cow Creek sale, with TL continuing to defer payment
year after year.
“That was pretty stupid because he had enough money; he
could pay that tax and be done with it,’’ she says.
At the same time, Southern Properties never became the
financial panacea TL was hoping for. Robin says a change in
tax laws — the 1986 Tax Reform Act extending depreciating
schedules — made the properties unprofitable and they were
sold off, often at a loss.
In addition, the value of property he purchased to create
his one-block compound at Orange Avenue, along with other
nearby property investments, took a precipitous drop as
businesses and churches moved away from the once-thriving
Orange Avenue during a time of urban blight. Golden South
Airways never really took off, either.
Robin also lays many of TL’s problems on his health.
Besides a two-time break in his right leg in 1958 and 1963
that left him with a limp and in chronic pain, he also suffers a
progression of illnesses, including kidney cancer, from which
he recovered. His medical decline started in 1976 when he
unknowingly had a perforated eardrum and treated what
he thought was an ear infection with a syringe and solution
that caused a stroke. That same year, he also was afflicted
with Bell’s palsy, a chronic neurologic disorder that left him
paralyzed on one side of his face.
The illnesses rob him of the handsome countenance he enjoyed
as a young man. They also cause balance issues, forcing
him to give up flying and boating. He went from occasionally
growing a beard to having one all the time to conceal his
“He had that disability with the ear and his mouth, and
it wasn’t the same as when he was healthy,’’ says friend Bill
Yates, well-known Fort Pierce funeral director. “I think it took
something out of him.’’ >>