Remembering Frank McCoy
by Ian Fisher
Many members of the UF Law community didn’t know what the law school lost when Professor Frank McCoy passed away on May 22.
Despite a life full of accomplishments, McCoy was modest, unassuming and not showy about his life, according to two of his closest friends, Professors Joseph Little and Dennis Calfee. McCoy traveled all over the world, knew at least a dozen languages, was a paratrooper, and worked for the predecessor to the CIA among many other accomplishments. But he’d rarely talk about it.
“He would never talk about himself or his accomplishments,” Calfee said. “The only way that we were able to [learn anything] was that we worked on him for years to get him to tell us things. Of course after he passed we had the benefit at looking at some of his papers.”
Calfee and Little wished they knew more about McCoy before he died so they could have asked him more about his life. McCoy did not have any children and his wife predeceased him.
McCoy loved languages and acquired them easily, Calfee said. However, he was modest about this too. Calfee remembered one time when a Portuguese visitor came to UF Law and McCoy downplayed knowing Portuguese.
“We came up with the idea that we needed to get someone that could speak with him. We called Frank and asked if he spoke Portuguese. He said, ‘Ohhh, a little,’” Calfee said. “And of course then he came and Frank dialogued with this guy as if they were brothers from the lodge in Portugal. He spoke fluent Portuguese and carried on a conversation with this gentleman.”
When McCoy died, UF Law lost a one-of-a-kind wealth of knowledge, Little and Calfee said.
“He was an absolute incredible resource,” Calfee said. “It didn’t matter what you asked him, he could come up with something.” Added Little, “Or he would tell you, ‘I don’t know anything about that.’ But he knew most of the time.”
McCoy served in the United States Army after attending college at UF and served in the Office of Strategic Services (now the CIA) during World War II in China. After that, he came back to Gainesville and earned a master’s degree in geography, writing his thesis on Miami International Airport. For research, he worked for Pan American Airways, flying to Cuba, South America and Central America, Little said. Little and Calfee also found a Pan Am advertisement encouraging travel to Guatemala in which McCoy was featured.
“Of course we wondered what else he was doing,” Calfee said. “We’ll leave that to speculation whether he was working for the government at that time.”
After that, he joined the United States Foreign Service before returning to Gainesville to get his law degree from UF in the 1950s. He began his career at UF Law right after earning his degree.
At McCoy’s funeral, Little met someone who served with McCoy in his Gainesville reserve unit.
“He said to me, ‘When I first met Frank and he came to Gainesville and joined our unit, I thought he was joshing us on some of these things – going to China and all that,’” Little said. “Then this guy told me a story, he said ‘We were in Washington on our two-week duty one time. We went into this Chinese restaurant. Frank disappeared and after a while, he came back with the proprietor of this place speaking Chinese. He had known this guy in China when he was over there. And everything else that I found out about Frank later was exactly the way he had told us.’”
Little and Calfee said McCoy was as good a friend and confidant as someone could have.
“We miss him,” they said. “We dearly miss him.”
McCoy may be remembered by donations to the reserve collection of the University of Florida College of Law Library, Law Center Association, Inc, 2500 SW 2nd Avenue, Gainesville, FL 32611.