Bill Davis

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William E. "Bill" Davis
Born July 17, 1928
Died April 22, 2008
Occupation Escambia County Sheriff
Spouse Linda Davis
Parents Roland E. and Winnie A. Davis
Children Kevin Davis
William E. Davis, Jr.
Sally Spencer
Ramona Szuch
Karen Gray
Paula Porto

William Elvin "Bill" Davis, Sr. was Escambia County Sheriff from 1961 through 1970.

Davis was born on July 17, 1928, to Roland and Winnie Davis. Roland was a career law enforcement officer, having worked for the Escambia County Road Patrol and the Pensacola Police Department for many years, and died of a heart attack while doing a traffic patrol. A talented baseball and football player, Bill first attended Tate High School before transferring to Catholic High on an athletic scholarship, graduating in 1945. He went on to Pensacola Junior College, again on athletic scholarship, and graduated from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College at Perkinston in 1948.

Davis was a member of the National Association of Professional Baseball Players and played baseball with the Fitzgerald Pioneers in Georgia and the Cincinnati Reds in Columbia, South Carolina. He also played for local teams the Pensacola Fighting Alumni and the Pensacola Flyers.

Davis began working at the Escambia County Sheriff's Office after graduating from the Florida Police Academy in 1951. In 1954 he was shot in the line of duty while attempting to apprehend a barricaded subject.

In 1960 Davis ran against incumbent Emmett Shelby and won. When he took office in 1961 at the age of 33, he was the youngest sheriff ever elected in Florida.

As sheriff, he began the department's first K-9 and mobile crime unit programs, as well as a missing persons bureau and the Roland Davis Memorial Training Center, in honor of his father. He presided over rising costs and stagnant wages in the wake of rapid inflation, and by 1970 the department's budget had reached a record $925,216. His administration also oversaw some of the most charged moments of the civil rights movement, but Davis reportedly maintained friendly relations with local activists Otha Leverette and H. K. Matthews.

Davis was reelected twice in 1964 and 1968, and he began planning a Congressional campaign to challenge Bob Sikes. However, his tenure in office was marred by several controversies. Early in his first term, Davis was called by the County Commission to account for departmental overdrafts and other instances of what amounted to "a failure to follow budgetary rules," according to one commissioner. He was temporarily removed from office in (date needed) after rumors spread that he was involved in a gambling ring at the Paradise Beach Hotel, but was later cleared and reinstated.

In 1970, Davis was removed from office by Governor Reubin Askew after being indicted by multiple grand jury. He was charged, among other things, with breaking and entering the home of Deputy Michael C. Iannone, allegedly to carry on an affair with his wife Karen. She testified that she and Davis had been having an affair.

Davis was acquitted of the charges, but was not reinstated by the Florida Senate. In February 1974 the Senate upheld his suspension, finding him guilty of malfeasance, neglect of duty and incompetence in office.

Following his removal as sheriff, he opened and operated the Branding Iron Steak and Lobster Ranch Restaurant until 1975. In 1984 he started a private investigation firm, Davis Investigations, and in 1987 he owned the Pine Forest Adult Elderly Care Facility.

Davis was active in numerous community organizations including the Ensley Masonic Lodge, Rotary Club and Shiner's Temple. He also founded the West Pensacola Volunteer Fire Department, coached little league softball and baseball, and maintained a "mini-ranch" where orphaned and disadvantaged children could interact with animals and take hayrides.

Following a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, Davis died on April 22, 2008.

Preceded by:
Emmett Shelby
Escambia County Sheriff
Succeeded by:
Royal Untreiner



  • John Appleyard. The Peacekeepers: the Story of Escambia County, Florida's 43 Sheriffs. 2007.
  • "Funeral services today for ex-Escambia sheriff." Pensacola News Journal, April 24, 2008.
  • Obituary