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Citrus County Biographies

Basil Orville Bowden

Transcribed from: The History of Florida: Past & Present, The Lewis Publishing Co., Vol. II, page 343, 1923.

Submitted by: Nancy Rayburn (naev@earthlink.net)

BOWDEN, BASIL ORVILLIE. "There is no better Sheriff in Florida," is a tribute that has frequently been paid to the official service and to the man BASIL ORVILLIE BOWDEN, sheriff of Citrus County. His official record is one that should attract attention and emulation, since it involves the highest degree of efficiency, the economic administration of an important office, and a fidelity to duties that should not pass unnoticed.

Sheriff BOWDEN has been acquainted with adversity of circumstances and understands the lot of the man who comes up through difficulties. He was born on a farm in Hernando County, Florida, November 15, 1868, son of BASIL J. and MARY (KEATHLEY) BOWDEN. His parents were both born in Duplin County, North Carolina, and were early settlers in Hernando County. When Sheriff BOWDEN was three months old his father was accidentally killed while on a hunting trip. BASIL O. was only six years old when his mother died, and he was therefore reared without a parent's care. His success has been of his own making and the schools he attended were very limited in their advantages. However, in 1889 he graduated from a boys' school at Glenwood, North Carolina. For a number of years he farmed near Brooksville, but in 1904 entered the newspaper game by establishing the Dade City Star and made that one of the best weekly papers in South Florida. Selling out the Star in 1915 he removed to Inverness and purchased and became editor and owner of the Citrus County Chronicle, a paper that has been published since 1892, and has a special prestige among Florida weekly papers. From his active editorial duties, he was called in 1917 to the office of sheriff by appointment. For several years the sheriff's office had been running a deficit, and was burdened with a heavy debt, a depleted treasury, and large assessments to pay off outstanding warrants. It was in the fiscal administration of his office that Sheriff Bowden proved his capacity, and in a year's time had brought order into affairs and made the office self-sustaining and cleared of debt. Hence there is good reason why the citizens of Citrus County have kept him in office by reelection. He has accomplished something no other sheriff's office has done, in that he has made the office self-sustaining through fines and costs earned by the office, and none of the taxpayer's money has been spent by the sheriff's department. By special legislation he has also made improvements on the jail, and on good roads equipment. Sheriff BOWDEN is not the type of man who is looking for trouble, but when trouble arises he enforces his idea of public and private duty without fear or favor, and has shown a special skill and tact in enforcing the prohibition laws. His exemplary official conduct never alienated any of his host of friends and his friends and admirers are not only in Citrus County, but throughout the state. He is a member of the Sheriffs' Association of Florida, and the International Sheriffs' and Peace Officers' Association.

Sheriff BOWDEN has been prominent in local politics, and for six years was a member of the Democratic Executive Committee of Hernando County and served both as chairman and secretary of that body. He is now on his fourth term as a member of the Congressional Committee of the First District, and was a delegate to the Congressional Conventions of 1896 and 1898 at Tampa. He is a thirty-second degree Mason and a Shriner. Sheriff BOWDEN was chairman of the Local Draft Board during the World war, and had the satisfaction of seeing his sons with a large number of others from his county volunteer for service without waiting to be called. One who has been in close touch with his life record for many years says: "As editor, farmer, sheriff, husband, father, friend and citizen, B. O. BOWDEN has played the game as a true Florida cracker-American should play it."

In March, 1890, he married Miss MOLLIE McGEACHY. They were schoolmates in Hernando County. Of the five children the two oldest are BASIL and BRYANT, now associated as Bowden Brothers, Ford Dealers, at Sebring and Okeechobee. BASIL is the father of two children, LUCILLE and BASIL. BRYANT enlisted as a common seaman in the navy, was transferred to the United States Government Printing office at Key West, was formerly editor of the Okeechobee News which he sold to become a Ford dealer. JENNINGS, the third son, works with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, is married, enlisted and served fourteen months in the Quartermasters Department with the expeditionary forces in France. KEATHLEY, the fourth son, better known as "Kit", enlisted in the heavy artillery, is a printer by trade, and works in the printing office at Sebring. The youngest child is MABLE, thirteen years of age, and is the pride of the whole family. Note from Laverne Tornow

William Jennings Bowden died December 27, 1934 at the age of 38, and is buried in the Brooksville Cemetery in Hernando County, Florida. He married Gladys Irene Savary in 1920. Child of Jennings and Irene is William Jennings Bowden, Jr. Brothers of William Jennings Bowden, Sr. are: Keathly, Bryant and Basil. He had one sister Mabel Bowden Lingenfelter.

The sources for the above information are the Brooksville Sun January 4, 1935; Garnett Funeral Home Records and Brooksville Cemetery Sexton's records.