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Attorney Bill Brinton, left, and city Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, who presented to Brinton a proclamation from Mayor Lenny Curry declaring Wednesday "Bill Brinton Day" in Jacksonville.
Jax Daily Record Thursday, May. 18, 201712:00 PM EST

Honoring the city's 'billboard buster'

Attorney Bill Brinton, a warrior in fight against billboards and visual blight, now in battle against lung cancer
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

On Wednesday during a tribute to attorney Bill Brinton and his nationally recognized reputation as an advocate for scenic beauty and against visual blight, attorney Hank Coxe described Brinton as “one of those people who are capable of jousting at windmills.”

Those “windmills” of seemingly insurmountable odds have included, Coxe said, billboard control, term limits for local elected officials and how the city handles Human Rights Commission nominations.

“Now, he’s jousting with another windmill,” Coxe added, referring to Brinton undergoing treatment for advanced lung cancer.

Brinton, 64, was honored at a luncheon at the Main Library Conference Center attended by about 300 people.

The event also celebrated the 30th anniversary of Scenic Jacksonville, the local all-volunteer nonprofit affiliate of Scenic America that promotes preservation and beautification.

Guests included city officials, members of the legal community and advocates for protecting Jacksonville’s natural scenic character.

“It’s nice to see a room full of people who understand and appreciate what Bill has done,” said Ronald Fleming, urban planner and board chairman of Scenic America, who came to Jacksonville from Cambridge, Mass., to honor Brinton.

He cited Brinton’s contribution of “thousands of pro bono hours” to help myriad groups across the country fight major corporations and, in some cases, their own municipal governments, that wanted to proliferate intrusive signage.

“He has an unshakable optimism that something good can be achieved,” Fleming said. “Without Bill Brinton’s passion, commitment and hard work, America the beautiful would be a little less so.”

Attorney Margaret Lloyd, vice chair of Scenic America and former executive director of Scenic Texas, said Brinton over the years became known as “Bill board buster,” a reference to the “Ghostbusters” movie.

She said when the Houston city government was planning to install 500 new billboards, the group decided they needed an out-of-town expert who was “knowledgeable and fearless” to win the fight.

“The Bill board buster flew in and he stopped them,” she said.

Alicia Grant, board president of Scenic Jacksonville, described what she saw as evidence of Brinton’s commitment to the fight against visual blight during contentious negotiations with an outdoor advertising company that led to a favorable settlement for billboard opponents.

They were in Brinton’s “war room” as she called it, when she saw packages of photographs from family vacations.

“Mixed in with the vacation photos, you could tell that Bill had stopped by the side of the road to take pictures of billboards,” she said.

To ensure that Brinton’s legacy will be preserved, Scenic Jacksonville has established an endowment in his honor, said Nina Waters, president of the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, which is administering the endowment.

The endowment, with a goal to raise $300,000, will be used to provide perpetual funding for Scenic Jacksonville’s mission to protect and enhance scenic beauty in Jacksonville.

Waters said that as of Wednesday, $182,000 had been raised in amounts from $5 to $10,000 from donors across the U.S.

Brinton didn’t go to the podium during the luncheon, but he appeared in a short video presentation that documented his career as an advocate for scenic preservation and said, “I’m not leaving behind statutes or buildings, I’m leaving behind ideas.”

As for jousting with his latest windmill, Brinton said he’s being treated at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center and there is always hope.

“They’ve got some great doctors,” he said. “I’m fighting.”

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