Born: December 16, 1880
Died: June 1, 1948
Term: November 3, 1931 - November 3, 1943
Born in Offerman, Georgia, Robert E. Lee Chancey was educated in the Georgian public school system and, in 1902, graduated from Mercer University with a law degree. He moved to Tampa on September 5, 1905, where he worked as an attorney with M.B. Macfarlane until 1918. Chancey married Jennie Cortino in Tampa on September 10, 1906, and the couple had one son: William. Appointed County Solicitor, Chancey served in this position from 1916 to 1921 and again from 1923 to 1929. He was also President of the Hillsborough County Bar Association.
Politically active, Chancey campaigned against the long-time mayor, D.B. McKay, and won the election. Chancey served three 4-year terms as mayor until his retirement from the city government. During his terms of office, Chancey was confronted with social and economic hardship caused by the Depression. Many of Tampa's citizens lost their jobs and savings as businesses and banks failed throughout the city and tourism ground to a halt. The city treasury had dwindled significantly, as people and businesses were no longer able to pay their property taxes. Yet, there was a rapidly growing demand in the city to feed and shelter the ever-increasing number of unemployed people.
During the City's boom days, the commissioners had taken bonds in the amount of $13,000,000 to improve public works and services. The interest payments on these bonds were taking most of Tampa's already Depression-depleted revenue. Banks that held these notes refused to lend any more money to the City. Consequently, the city government did not have the money to meet its payroll. In response, Chancey along with the City Council greatly reduced the budgets for the Police and Fire departments. Other departments experienced significant cuts in their budgets. As a result, several fire stations were closed and the City's services were substantially reduced.
In the spring of 1932, Tampa received federal relief through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and, with Mayor Chancey's guidance, the city received some much-needed civic improvements. The Peter 0. Knight Airport on Davis Island was completed. Bayshore Boulevard was widened and a new seawall was constructed, repairs were made to the Tampa Bay Hotel and, in 1933, the University of Tampa was established. In addition, the federal government supplied the funds to construct Fort Homer Hesterly, a new National Guard armory. By 1938, the City's economic situation began to substantially improve and with the onset of World War II, Tampa's economy rapidly expanded with the growing demand for wartime equipment and materials.
Chancey campaigned for a fourth term in 1943 but was defeated by Curtis Hixon. Socially active throughout his life, Chancey was a member of the Elks Club and Knights of Pythias.
Robert Chancey passed away in Tampa on June 1, 1948.
Sources for this Biographical Sketch:
Covington, Dr. James W., and Wavering, Debbie Lee, "The Mayors of Tampa: A Brief Administrative History," Tampa, FL: University of Tampa, 1987.
Grismer, Karl H., Tampa: A History of the City and the Tampa Bay Region of Florida, St. Petersburg Printing Company, FL, 1950.
Photo from The Tampa Tribune.
Tampa Council Minutes, City of Tampa Archives, Tampa, FL
September 23, 1930 - June 14, 1932 Roll # 12
June 21, 1932 - January 16, 1934 Roll # 13
January 23, 1934 - May 14, 1935 Roll # 14
May 21, 1935 - September 22, 1936 Roll # 15
September 29, 1936 - October 5, 1937 Roll # 16
October 12, 1937 - October 25, 1938 Roll # 17
November 1, 1938 - January 16, 1940 Roll # 18
January 23, 1940 - February 4, 1941 Roll # 19
February 11, 1941 - February 24, 1942 Roll # 20
February 24, 1942 - October 19, 1943 Roll # 21