ORANGE PARK – When David King isn’t helping people navigate the world of law, he’s doing what he can to give back to the community that’s given so much to him.
King specialized as a lawyer in the aspects of law he said other lawyers call boring. But for him, it’s work he consistently loves. And despite being a lawyer, King’s hands are still filled with other projects. He serves on the board of Orange Park Medical Center and First Atlantic Bank, but his crown jewel is the Clay County Military Appreciation Luncheon.
“I’ve been on more not-for-profit boards than I can even remember at this point,” King said. “The one activity that most are aware of is the Military Appreciation Luncheon. We actually started in 1987, and I like to point out that we started ours before Duval County started theirs. Isn’t that amazing?”
King helped start the luncheon with two other people who years after he moved to the county in 1985 – Clay County School Board Chairman Carol Studdard and the late Tom Diloreto.
After studying law at Florida State University, King explored everything that Florida had to offer and saw Clay County as the top choice.
“It’s the best place to live, to work and to raise a family,” King said. “Clay County is a special place.”
King, Studdard and Diloret created 50 tickets for the first military appreciation luncheon only to go on and sell 75. The luncheon had more than 300 in attendance this past May.
“I believe that number has to do with our space,” King said. “If we had even more space, I think we could do 400 or even 500 people.”
King was born and reared in Dayton, Ohio, and that’s where his appreciation for the military began. His father, Pfc. Paul King, helped retake the Philippines from the Japanese during World War II. According to King, his father remained humble despite the acts of heroism he performed during the war.
“If you asked him about that, he’d tell you that he didn’t do anything better than any of the others alongside him,” King said.
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree because despite all that King does for Clay County, he struggles to take credit in any majority capacity. Much like his father, he said he’s not doing anything more for the county than anyone else.
King took eight years to complete his undergraduate studies in college and he took longer than the usual three years to complete law school.
“I learned quickly that it’s not possible to work full-time and go to school full time,” King said.
While attending college, King worked at one of Ohio’s many General Motors manufacturing plants. King said GM was one of the largest employers in that area. It was here that he met a man he called Big Whitey Ryan.
Ryan saw a spark of himself in King because it wasn’t long before Ryan secretly worked favoritism into their work relationship, a risky move considering how pro-union the industry was back then, according to King. This favoritism wasn’t malicious or harmful to other workers – Ryan just wanted to see King succeed in college.
“He would see me come into work with a book under my arm and ask if I had a test,” King said. “I’d tell him I do but that it was no worry and that I could work. Well, hours before my shift would end, another employee would tell me that they were relieving me of my shift. Very convenient, right?”
King said Ryan was pulling the strings to get him some quiet time away from the manufacturing belts of GM so that he could study. That extra time to study paid off because eventually, after eight long years, he made it out of undergraduate studies.
Ryan unknowingly taught King how important it is to help those around you and that’s exactly why King is the person he is today. He speaks on behalf of county citizens during his board meetings and he works diligently each year to ensure the military heroes of the area get their appreciation at the annual military luncheon.
“It’s the least we can do for them,” King said.
King is 71 and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. He doesn’t even have plans to retire. According to King, if he’s still healthy and able, he’ll always be working – working for those who need his expertise in law, those who need his voice on a board, those who deserve endless appreciation after fighting for Clay County’s freedom in the military.
“A lot of people helped me, so I feel like I need to help my people,” King said. “It’s as simple as paying it back and I’ll always try to pay it back until I can’t do it anymore.
“Clay County has been good to me so I’m glad to do it.”