Photo/Story Gallery 2002
Oldest Living FHP Retiree Honored
Captain William “Bill” Thomas Stephens, Sr. was born October 24th, 1904, in Holly Navarre, Florida. At the age of twenty (20) he met and married Cinderella Swinney and they had four (4) children, Tommy, John, Boots and Gerald, all graduating college and all are now retired from their prominent jobs. Mrs. Cindy Stephens, their mother, died in 1933. In 1936 William met and married Leila Jones and she helped raise the children. In 1992, Mrs. Leila Stephens passed away.
In 1925, Bill began his lifetime of public service by joining the Florida Forest Service. The forestry property was later turned over to the U.S. Air Force and Bill began a career in law enforcement by joining the County Road Patrol in 1938 and then continuing further with the Florida Highway Patrol in 1940. Trooper Stephens served in numerous cities including Quincy, DeFuniak Springs, Brooksville, Panama City and Pensacola, where he retired in 1960 as the Pensacola District Commander with the rank of Lieutenant. He then went to the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office and became a deputy and worked for Sheriff Wade Cobb from 1961 to 1965. Lt. Stephens is the oldest living retired Florida Highway Patrol Officer.
After retiring from a law enforcement career, Lt. Stephens bought some property in Navarre, Florida, where he built and operated a campground. He remained active, furthered his education by going to night school, and received his real estate license. He sold his campground and went into real estate for twelve years before retiring for good.
On October 24th, 2002, retired Lt. William “Bill” Thomas Stephens, Sr. of the Florida Highway Patrol celebrated his 98th birthday with a celebration that was held at the First United Methodist Church of Pace, Florida. Approximately forty family and friends enjoyed the refreshments and festivities.
The guest speaker was Captain David M. Karasek, Pensacola District Commander of the Florida Highway Patrol. Captain Karasek presented achievement awards, letters, and cards from President George W. Bush, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Florida Senators Bob Graham and Bill Nelson. A special moment occurred when Captain Karasek presented Lt. Stephens with an honorary promotion to the rank of Captain. “Captain Stephens” was presented his new badge and a congratulatory certificate from the Director of the Florida Highway Patrol, Colonel Chris Knight. In closing comments, Captain Karasek promised “Captain Stephens” that upon his 100th birthday, a promotion to Major would be in order.