About John H. Hankinson Jr.
  • His Life
  • His Legacy
  • His Music

John H. Hankinson, Jr.
Florida has lost a friend, mentor and leader.

John H. Hankinson, Jr. of St. Augustine, Florida died on March 3, 2017. John was born to John and Shirley Hankinson on May 8, 1948 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He moved to Ocala, Florida at a young age and graduated from Ocala High School in 1966. John graduated from Florida Presbyterian College (now Eckerd College) in 1970 and UF School of Law in 1979, remaining a devoted Gator fan throughout his life.

John is survived by his mother, Shirley Hankinson of Ocala; his wife of 38 years, Gail Hankinson of St. Augustine; and two sons, John H. Hankinson V, of Atlanta and Samuel J. Hankinson, soon to be married to Laura Mills of Tallahassee.  He has two sisters, Mary Dingman (Russel) and Margaret Spontak (Vince) both of Ocala, and a brother Judge James “Jimmy” Hankinson (Allison) of Tallahassee. He also had 11 nieces and nephews and 11 great nieces and nephews he cherished.

John’s professional career revolved around the inter-relationship of land and water resources, protecting watersheds to assure there would be clean and abundant water in the future. Early in his career he served as the Director of Planning and Acquisition at the St Johns River Water Management District where he focused on the acquisition of critical watersheds, such as the Upper St. Johns River Basin, Lake Apopka and the Ocklawaha River Basin. Working with public and private partners he participated in the acquisition of over 200,000 acres of environmentally important lands in Florida. In 1994 John was appointed as Regional Administrator of EPA’s office in Atlanta, overseeing federal wetland regulation and state implementation of delegated Clean Water Act programs in eight southern states. John promoted comprehensive watershed and coastal aquatic ecosystem management including the Florida Everglades, National Estuary Programs, and efforts to establish a compact for the Apalachicola/Chattahoochee/Flint (ACF) river system. Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill he was asked to serve as the executive director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force where he worked with 11 federal agency and five states to develop a Strategy for restoration of the Gulf of Mexico. Hankinson was semi-retired but continued to work occasionally as a consultant for environmental management and policy projects. His desire to restore the Ocklawaha River to be a free flowing system continued to be a passion.

In addition to his professional career, John was widely known for his talent as a blues harmonica player producing a dozen CDs with several bands, including ‘Johnny Matanzas and the Hombres’ and ‘The Non-Essentials’. He was a friend and mentor to many musicians throughout his life. John had an extraordinary cadre of friends that was always expanding. He maintained close ties with scores of his friends from Fla. Presbyterian and from UF. His business associates quickly became his personal friends and the circle of musicians he jammed with was ever expanding. In both his professional and personal pursuits he constantly elevated those around him to be the best they could be. His generous spirit and infectious laughter will be sorely missed.  

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to Florida Defenders of the Environment for the John H. Hankinson, Jr. Ocklawaha River Restoration Fund (put on bottom left of check), P.O. Box 357086, Gainesville, FL 32635.

His Family and Friends

A Deep Family Connection

John was deeply connected to his family - his wife of 38 years, Gail Hankinson of St. Augustine; and two sons, John H. Hankinson V, of Atlanta and Samuel J. Hankinson (Laura) of Crawfordville. He had two sisters, Mary Dingman (Russel) and Margaret Spontak (Vince) both of Ocala, and a brother Judge James “Jimmy” Hankinson (Allison) of Tallahassee. He also had 11 nieces and nephews and 11 great nieces and nephews he cherished.


Faith and Spirituality

Fort King Presbyterian Church in Ocala was influential in his life. John admired former Governor Buddy MacKay, his father John H. Hankinson, Sr., John Moxley, and others for trying to bring real racial integration to Ocala. They created a church where black and white people could worship together, get to know each other on a personal basis, and give back to others less fortunate. It was a bold stand in a time of high tension and anxiety.

John H. Hankinson, Jr. used the church facilities when he was a parole officer, introducing the parolees to new ways to deal with frustration, disappointment and anger. He had meditation group meetings there with his parolees.  John and Gail were married in the church in 1978 and son John was baptized there.

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More About John H. Hankinson Jr.

"John was a true Renaissance man. A lawyer, song writer, singer, musician, and public servant in Fla and DC (under both the Clinton the Obama administrations), a conservationist and environmental activist who work comfortably with both Republicans and Democrats. Both respected and admired him as a straightforward honorable man who understood the art of compromise. As you are also aware, he is the former director of Audubon Florida and a long-time member of Florida Defenders of the Environment (FDE) in Gainesville, where he served on the Board. 

Throughout his life John was dedicated to protecting Florida’s fragile environment, especially the Ocklawaha River. Indeed at the time of his death, he was heavily involved in leading the FDE effort to restore the river working with the US Forest Service at both the State and Federal level. John was a true visionary who saw restoration of the river as a project that could not only bring back the river as an environmental necessity, but also an economic boon for Putnam county and surrounding area of central Florida.  Those of us who knew and loved him are committed to continue John’s vison to restore the Ocklawaha in his name and that of his mentor Marjory Carr."

- Bruce Kaster, Attorney, Ocala & FDE Board Member

"I have known John since he became our regional administrator and I worked directly for him.  We fast became good friends and I will sorely miss him.  John was a unique person, larger than life filling any room with his zest for life and care for the environment."

- Phil Mancusi-Ungaro, EPA

"John was a great guy. Full of life and humor, talent and grit. Loved hearing him play and the first time I saw the big armadillo was a life changing experience. I think I still have pictures of it. 

He will be sorely missed. Our state, and our planet, are better places because John was here. We are all better people because we knew him. I can offer no higher praise to any person."

- Dan Roach, Former Board Member SJRWMD

Large Scale Natural Systems Restoration and Management

Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers

The controversial Cross Florida Barge Canal was stopped by President Nixon in 1972, but not before the Rodman Dam was built blocking the free flow of the Ocklawaha River. John advocated for removing the dam since high school, working with Florida Defenders of the Environment and legendary Marjorie Carr to stop this very destructive project. Later, representing the St. Johns River Water Management District, he brought stakeholders together to develop a plan to restore the Ocklawaha River. While at SJRWMD he helped promote the state acquisition of lands now forming Silver River State Park. His desire to conserve the Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers as important environmental and economic assets for the local communities continued to be a passion until his death.

Find out how community partners are coming together to restore the Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers for people and for wildlife at www.johnhhankinsonjr.com.

Upper Ocklawaha River Restoration Project – A restoration project for one of the St. John’s major tributaries, this area included the restoration of Lake Apopka and the acquisition of floodplain and agricultural lands in the headwaters of the Ocklawaha River.

Silver River – case study of Silver River Acquisitions (Audubon Article)

Ocklawaha River Restoration and The Cross Florida Barge Canal

The controversial waterway project was eventually stopped by President Nixon in 1972 and Deauthorized in 1976. John was involved in the project since high school, first working with Florida Defenders of the Environment and Marjorie Carr to stop this very destructive project, and later representing the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) in a stakeholder’s process to determine how to manage and restore the Ocklawaha River that was impacted by the project. While it is now state policy to remove the Rodman Dam blocking the river, the state legislature has blocked restoration to date.

Letter to Gov. in 1990s
Ocklawaha Restoration Work

Florida Everglades – Involved in the work of the Sustainable South Florida Commission in developing a comprehensive plan to improve and maintain water quality in the Sanctuary. As a result of that, John helped negotiate the acquisition of over 50,000 acres of sugar land necessary for restoration, using funds provided by the federal farm bill.  He established a South Florida EPA office, working on a number of water quality issues arising as part of the restoration plan, including phosphorus loading to Everglades National Park and Lake Okeechobee and mercury issues throughout the Everglades system.

Upper St. Johns River Basin – This large project was a joint effort of the SJRWMD and the USACE to restore the headwaters of the St. Johns River while continuing to provide water supply and flood control to adjacent agricultural users. John Hankinson directed the acquisition of lands necessary for project completion and worked with stakeholders in developing and implementing land management plans for project lands.

John worked with Congress on land acquisition and appropriations matters related to the USJRB. Working with Congress and the Army Corps – negotiated a $7 million reduction in SJRWMD’s costs for implementing the USJRB project.

Econlockhatchee River Special Basis Designation – Lead staff at SJRWMD to develop a comprehensive basin protection plan for the Econ River and managed the stakeholder’s group that developed the recommendations for the plan. Directed the acquisition and management of lands in the Econ basin necessary for project goals.

Florida Keys Sanctuary Water Quality Commission – While Region IV Administrator at EPA, John served as chair of the congressionally mandated group charged with developing a comprehensive plan to improve and maintain water quality in the Sanctuary. He secured over $5 million in funding for water quality and wetland restoration efforts in the Keys.

Gulf of Mexico

Link to Gulf Restoration Site or Plan

Picture of team

Poem regarding protecting Florida beaches – JHH

Southern Appalachians (need details)

Florida Land Acquisition Legacy

  1. Involved in the passage and implementation of Preservation 2000 land acquisition program including processes for funding allocations, project criteria, and real estate procedures for the Save Our Rivers Program

  2. Pioneered joint acquisition efforts between the Save Our Rivers and Conservation and Recreation Lands programs, ultimately incorporating local land acquisition programs – Model was the first Silver River State Park acquisition

  3. Initiated annual land conferences designed to encourage joint acquisitions and the use of good science and GIS technologies in the design of acquisition projects and management plans

    • Include GIS speech related to this approach

  4. SJRWMD - Developed strategic plan for water resource lands acquisition, negotiating the acquisition of over 200,000 acres of public land

    • Acquisition of Silver Glen Springs, a first magnitude spring, from St. Joe Corporation
    • Extensive lands in the USJRB
    • Thousands of acres of muck farms in the Ocklawaha Basin that have been restored to wetlands

  5. SJRWMD List of lands he negotiated (from district)

  6. Map that Michael Created Showing Those Lands

  7. Descriptions and photos of major properties (from powerpoint and district files)

  8. Other lands negotiated:

    • 750 acres of environmental lands in the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve to Lee County and the USFWS (Jacoby Dev.)
    • 93,000 acre sale Babcock Ranch to the State of Florida (with Brigham & Moore Law Firm)
    • Sales of conservation easements over agricultural lands in Central Florida to the SJRWMD (Consultant work)
    • 53,000 acre Talisman Farm in the Everglades Agricultural Area from St. Joe Corp to become part of the Everglades Restoration Area (EPA) – very complex purchase with multiple land exchanges

  9. Pioneered the use of joint acquisitions between federal, state, regional and local governments
  10. Quotes related to his work – Why he was successful, How we can learn from his life and work (Dean, Bunton, Christainsen (sp),

Government and Business Partnerships

 SJRWMD – created a comprehensive water resource planning capability including a multi-office technical assistance branch to assist local governments in water resource planning

Water Policy, Regulation and Supply

 Clean Water Act and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Implementation (EPA work)

Suwannee River Partnership Case Study

Reduced nitrogen loading from animal waste, fertilizers, and human waste into the water resources of the Suwannee River Basin by emphasizing voluntary incentive-based programs (Include 2003 – The 2003 Success Story – produced by SRWMD; include quotes from his May 19, 2004 letter)

City of Atlanta Wastewater Violations – Worked with the State of Georgia, DOJ, and the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper to bring the City of Atlanta under Federal order to stop a multitude of water quality violations arising from the City’s sewage treatment plan operation and to restore water resource damage.

Blue Ridge Paper Mill Permit Negotiations – This extremely controversial mill discharged wastewater into the Pigeon River in North Carolina upstream of the state of Tennessee. Dioxin was at issue, as well as color. John worked with EPA General Counsel, Gary Guzy, to negotiate and successfully develop a permit approach accepted by all stakeholders.

Water Supply – Alternative Sources and Planning Initiatives

Directing the development of a 6,000 acre alternative water supply project in the Southwest Florida Water Management District

Successfully negotiated with SFWMD for the acquisition of the Loxahatchee Reservoir, a critical water supply component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program

Represented the EPA in efforts to develop a federal compact allocating water to the users in the states of Florida, Alabama and Georgia. On-going issue (Apalachicola/Chattahoochee/Flint Compact Negotiations).

Wetland Mitigation and Restoration

Brownfields and Community Revitalization


Clean-up and reuse of contaminated properties – EPA brownfield projects in communities like Charleston, SC; Louisville, KY; and Atlanta, Ga. Later worked with Jacoby Development on brownfields redevelopment in other areas.

Charleston Harbor Community-Based Initiative – In addition to implementing clean-up of a number of hazardous waste sites in the Charleston Harbor area, Region IV EPA also worked to address the concerns of the community in the area and to provide a forum for the presentation and resolution of community issues arising from the contaminated sites. John’s role was to support professional EPA staff in developing the leadership and relationships needed for success and to insure that fiscal resources were available for their work.


Helping communities to develop a vision of their future and identifying tools and partners for achieving this vision

John was his appointed by Governor Graham to serve on the  ELM's II Committee in the 1980s.  The Environmental Land Management Study Committee reviewed growth management legislation to balance environmental protection and economic concerns. The Committee reviewed all Florida resource and growth management programs governed by and related to Chapter 380, Florida Statutes, and made recommendations for improvements in these programs, on the needs for State participation in land and water resource management, and when and to what extent the State should participate.  Others on the committee included Jay Landers and Nathaniel Reed.   Based on the recommendations of the EMS II committee, the Legislature enacted the State and Regional Planning Act of 1984, which authorized a new effort to draft a State Comprehensive Plan.  John was also very involved in the discussions drafting the State Comprehensive Plan and the State Water Plan, while we were still in Tallahassee, 1984/85 timeframe. 

ELMs III that addressed land acquisition and Preservation 2000. (check on John’s involvement, he was at SJRWMD)

Conversion of former military lands to alternative uses


Addressing environmental justice issues

Environmental Technologies – Working with start-up companies to promote acceptance of environmentally superior technologies



Seagrass recovery


Organizational Change Management

Article from Atlanta Journal Constitution from Jan. 2001

Region IV EPA – Led the “reinvention” of Region IV’s workforce approach leading 1200 staff, $500 million budget, covering 8 states and 50 million people

EPA – pushed a community based approach to environmental improvement and worked with both elected and citizen community leaders

EPA – Coordinately closely with the state environmental secretaries and with other Federal partners (Southeastern Natural Resources Leaders Group)


Awards and Recognition

Include list, photos and descriptions (photos from Lisa)

John was widely known for his talent as a blues harmonica player and vocalist producing a dozen CDs with several bands, including Johnny Matanzas and the Hombres, Chrome Blind and The Non-Essentials. He was a friend and mentor to many musicians throughout his life, maintaining close ties with scores of his friends from Florida Presbyterian College and UF. The circle of musicians he jammed with was ever expanding.

John Hankinson & Friends

John’s gathering of musician friends often happened at Lake Tomahawk, along the Ocklawaha River, and his historic home in Summer Haven. Many were never recorded, but all were cherished.

Albums: Bacchanalian Revelations and Fall Frolics
Musicians: TR DeRoche, Sandy Eppling, Joey Hartman, Gregg Jones, Kathyrn Riley, John Hankinson and others



The Nonessentials – Atlanta, Georgia
Musicians: Rick Glover, Rich Hammond, John Hankinson, David Harbin and Dave Moore

Albums: Take You for a Ride, Trash on the Beach, Carnival in the Attic



Chrome Blind – Summerhaven, Florida
Musicians: Long-time friend TR DeRoche and John Hankinson.
Albums: Florida is Dangerous



Johnny Matanzas and the Hombres – Summerhaven, Florida
Musicians: TR DeRoche, Mike Elias, Mike Fonseca, Jeff Million, Bill Snyder/Jim Stafford, and John Hankinson.

Albums: Hombres Compadres, Beat Feet, Holding Down the Fort, Johnny Matanzas and the Hombres



Order copies of any of these CDs or a complete set by emailing info@johnhhankinsonjr.com.

Album covers by Steve Smith, Art Gone Postal


  1. His Music History – piano, trombone, banjo, harmonica
  2. Background on His Bands and Band Members

    1. Hankinson and Friends
    2. The Non-Essentials
    3. Chrome Blind

Johnny Matanzas and the Hombres – TR DeRoche, Jeff Million, Mike Fonseca, Mike Elias,  Bill Snyder/Jim Stafford, and John Hankinson.  
Johnny Matanzas and the Hombres play ocean-inspired original and time-worn roots rock. Veteran songwriters and instrumentalists, they drifted together along the Atlantic barrier island beaches for one purpose: to enjoy playing music with (and for) their friends! Their songs encourage you to take your shoes off and wiggle your toes in the sand as this eclectic, rhythm driven posse from the Matanzas basin rides the musical island waves.

  1. Original Song Lyrics
    • Silver River
    • No Reason to Sing the Blues
    • My Momma’s Got it Going On

Tel: 352-229-2887