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Former Florida Gov. Claude Kirk dies at 85, state's first Republican governor in 20th century
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) ' Former Florida Gov. Claude R. Kirk Jr. has died at age 85.
He was the state's first Republican governor in the 20th century.
Kirk's family says he died peacefully Wednesday in his sleep at his West Palm Beach home.
Democrats dominated Florida politics when Kirk was elected in 1966, but his victory cracked open the door for what eventually became the Republicans' mastery of Tallahassee.
Although his political rivals derided the colorful insurance executive from Jacksonville, Kirk is credited with changing the course of state government and politics during his four-year term.
Kirk was often referred to as "Claudius Maximus" due to his flamboyant personality.
He was born in San Bernardino, Calif., and served as a Marine officer in World War II and the Korean War.