Bill Sharpe, 59
Today, I am unspeakably injured.
-Bill Russell at Wilt Chamberlain’s funeral, 1999
That is my mood today too, having heard that Bill Sharpe has killed himself. The police have not yet released the bodily details of his death, but we know what finally did him in. He, at last, succumbed to what my good friend and erstwhile Floridian Lindsey once called “the tough as shit fight people put into also making something good happen” here. The fact that he could not prevail despite his best efforts — and they were very good — shows me that it is not altogether a fair one.
Bill embodied that fight. His now-defunct South Tampa Community News was a reliable gem full of common sense and communal concern in a landscape full of slick, essentially commercial publications like South Tampa Magazine. Once the chair of the Pinellas County Democratic Party, his most recent endeavor was the Tampa Epoch, a monthly newspaper designed for sale by the homeless. In the face of a wave of anti-homeless ordinances intended to hide the problem of Florida’s masses of bridge dwellers, Bill responded the only way he knew how, with a newspaper and good will.
Faced with foreclosure on his Bayshore condo, Bill Sharpe chose the Epoch and Tampa’s least fortunate over personal comfort: he moved himself and his cat into the newspaper’s offices. His good works earned him little material wealth along with rebukes from the Mayor, the City Council and lots of angry Tribune readers, who objected to his initiatives to keep the homeless alive and making honest money.
He was a good person who cared about this place and his fellow man. Rest easily, Mr. Sharpe.