PASSINGS: Claude Kirk, Arch West

Claude Kirk

Florida’s 1st GOP governor of 20th century

Claude Kirk, 85, a flamboyant self-promoter who became Florida’s first Republican governor of the 20th century, died Wednesday at his West Palm Beach home, his family announced.

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.

“There weren’t a lot of people ready to be Republicans,” the California-born Kirk told the Associated Press in 1999. “We had to create our own.”

Political niceties were of no concern to Kirk, who was known as “Claudius Maximus.” His relationship with the Democratic-controlled Legislature was acrimonious, especially over taxes and urban sprawl. His opposition to court-ordered school busing gained national attention.

Born Jan. 7, 1926, in San Bernardino, Kirk attended high school in Montgomery, Ala. He served in the Marines in World War II and Korea.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a law degree from the University of Alabama and moved to Jacksonville in 1956.

After leaving office in 1971, Kirk pursued a series of quixotic campaigns — including for the U.S. presidency — and swung back and forth between the two major political parties.

Arch West

Frito-Lay exec helped launch Doritos

Arch West, 97, a retired Frito-Lay marketing executive credited with creating Doritos as the first national tortilla chip brand, died Sept. 20 at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, his family announced. The cause was not given.

West was a marketing vice president for Dallas-based Frito-Lay in 1961 when, while on a family vacation near San Diego, he found a snack shack selling fried tortilla chips. His daughter Jana Hacker said her father got a tepid corporate response to the tortilla chip idea but conducted marketing research that led to the Doritos rollout.

West had previously worked for both Lever Brothers and Young & Rubicam in New York as a liaison between the creative teams and clients that included Jell-O.

Born in 1914 in Indianapolis, West was placed in a Masonic home in Franklin, Ind., after the death of his father, a Mason, leaving his mother with two sons she could not support.

West received his bachelor’s degree from Franklin College in Indiana, which he attended on a scholarship. He then started his career as a cheese salesman for Standard Brands.

He joined the Navy in 1943 and served as a gunnery officer aboard the destroyer escort Holt during World War II.

After the war, West resumed his career in Indianapolis and was later recruited by Lever Bros. in New York.

—Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports