Bob Dillinger, longtime Pinellas Public Defender, dies

Dillinger led the Public Defender’s Office for 24 years, providing legal service to those accused of crimes who could not afford a private attorney.

Bob Dillinger, who served as the Public Defender for Pinellas and Pasco counties in the Sixth Judicial Circuit until his retirement in 2020, has died. He was 72 years old.

Official information about Dillinger’s cause of death or when he passed have not been publicly released, but sources tell Florida Politics he died over the weekend.

Dillinger had battled cancer for years. He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2007, according to the Tampa Bay Times, and had undergone nine rounds of chemotherapy as of his retirement in 2020.

Dillinger led the Public Defender’s Office for 24 years, providing legal service to those accused of crimes who could not afford a private attorney. He was a strong advocate for eliminating causes of crime and recidivism, spearheading changes to his office to focus on social issues such as homelessness and mental illness.

Dillinger, a Republican, was also an advocate for kids, including through the Beth Dillinger Foundation named after Dillinger and his wife, Kay’s, daughter, Beth. She died by suicide in 2006, the Times reported. The foundation provides scholarships for kids who can’t afford to continue their education and runs the Nourish to Flourish Program, which feeds kids who lack access to nutritious food.

The program’s website says it began as a result of the staggering statistics about chronically hungry kids in Pinellas County at the time Dillinger took office, in 2012, which at that time stood at 7,000. To date, the program has provided more than 375,000 meals to kids in need, according to the website.

Dillinger’s first job after obtaining his law degree from Stetson University College of Law in 1976 was at the Public Defender’s Office, but he didn’t stay long, leaving the office for private practice in 1981, before later returning as the elected Public Defender.

Sara Mollo, the current Public Defender, told the Tampa Bay Times that the Office extends its “deepest sympathies” to the Dillinger family and praised the longtime public servant for “his dedication, kindness, and the positive impact he had on our clients and office.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].

One comment

  • Maya Marie Thomas

    March 12, 2024 at 9:07 am

    I am so sorry to hear about his passing. He fought for what he believed the community needed: justice and social programs to make it a better community.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn