James McKay: Tampa’s Fiercest Mayor

James Mckay

When James McKay arrived in Tampa it was just a tiny village with thatched huts and livestock roaming the streets. Before his death in 1876, McKay, acting as mayor (the only not to be a US citizen), would help establish Tampa as a bustling seaport.

Mckay was first successful in the export of Florida Cattle to Havana. He profited in this line of work and more Spanish Doubloons passed through his hands than any pirate of legend. Shortly after his election, McKay and his son would also become blockade runners, taking guns, ammunition, foodstuffs and other merchandise to the Confederate army and civilians.

They were captured and imprisoned in 1861, but were quickly released. However, the US refused to return Mckay’s ship. Upon returning to Tampa, and driven by resentment, he armed another of his vessels and proceeded to sink or capture 20 small union vessels in the bay.

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