The Top Newsmakers of 2022: In Memoriam: William ‘Bill’ Sheppard

From new CEOs at some of the city’s largest companies to the death of a giant in the fight for civil rights, these are people who made headlines in Northeast Florida.

  • By Max Marbut
  • | 12:00 a.m. January 4, 2023
  • | 5 Free Articles Remaining!
William ‘Bill’ Sheppard
William ‘Bill’ Sheppard
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William ‘Bill’ Sheppard

Jacksonville attorney William “Bill” Sheppard died April 9 at age 80 after a long illness.

A partner at Sheppard, White, Kachergus, DeMaggio & Wilkison, Sheppard built a reputation as a champion of civil rights during his 50-year legal career.

Sheppard’s representation in Duval County Court, the state Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court led to prison reform, protection of civil rights of people in custody and legalization of same-sex marriage in Florida. 

Another of his victories forced the city to end discrimination against Black firefighters in the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department.

A graduate of Florida State University, Sheppard was an officer in the U.S. Army. After military service, he graduated from law school at the University of Florida and was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1968.

Sheppard was appointed to the Florida Governor’s Advisory Committee on Corrections and the federal Middle District of Florida Civil Justice Reform Act Commission.

He received many awards during his career, including the Nelson Poynter Civil Liberties Award from the American Civil Liberties Union in 2000.

Sheppard received the Florida Bar Foundation Medal of Honor in 2004, the highest award bestowed upon a lawyer by the legal profession in Florida.

He received the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Award in 1985, which is given annually by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court to an attorney in Florida who has given the most outstanding volunteer legal service; the Selig I. Goldin Memorial Award in 1993, presented annually by the Criminal Law Section of The Florida Bar for making a significant contribution to the state’s criminal justice system; and the Steven M. Goldstein Criminal Justice Award in 2001, the highest honor presented by the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The Jacksonville Bar Association presented Sheppard the Henry Lee Adams Jr. Diversity Trailblazer Award in 2015, named after Sheppard’s former partner in the first racially integrated law firm in Florida. In 2016, Sheppard received Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Award.

Honoring Sheppard continued posthumously.

In May, he received the first William J. Sheppard Lifetime Achievement Award, established in his memory by the Jacksonville Daily Record. In December, Sheppard was selected for the 2022 Spirit of Giving Award from the judges and lawyers of the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida.



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