Bryant B. Skinner, Sr., a lifelong resident of Jacksonville, Florida, died on March 10, 2019 at the age of 96.
Born October 12, 1922, he was one of the first babies born at the new St. Vincent’s Hospital in Riverside.
He was a well know businessman and civic leader, spending his career in commercial real estate development and giving his time and talents to innumerable political, civic and charitable organizations.
He attended the public schools in Jacksonville, but graduated high school from The Webb School in Bell Buckell, Tennessee. He attended Davidson College until the outbreak of WWII, which led to his transfer to the University of North Carolina under the naval officers training program.
He shipped out to the south Pacific as a newly minted “ninety-day wonder” ensign on board the LST 1009. He was in numerous campaigns in the amphibious war and was part of the occupation forces in Japan.
Returning home, he graduated from UNC and went to work for Stockton, Whatley & Davin, Co., a large real estate development company based in Jacksonville, were he spent 10 years involved in the company’s state-wide operations. He was a vice president of the company when he left in 1959.
He married Betty Walthour of Birmingham, Ala., in 1948. They had many happy years together and raised three sons and a daughter. Betty was a strong and dedicated supporter of Bryant’s many adventures.
In 1960 he commenced development of the Deerwood Club, a gated residential community in the then “middle of nowhere” wilderness called the Southside of Jacksonville. Deerwood was a great success and is credited with being the vanguard of development in what was to become the city’s most dynamic quadrant.
In 1981, he commenced a commercial development called “Southpoint”, at the interchange of I-95 and the newly opened J. Turner Butler Blvd. It too was a success, and established JTB as the city’s main growth corridor to this day.
Together with his three sons, he established Skinners Wholesale Nursery, a nursery specializing in large container grown trees.
His early involvement in the local Republican Party, when a Republican was an oddity in Jacksonville, was another expression of his visionary life. He met every Republican president from Dwight Eisenhour to George Bush and visited President Nixon and President Reagan in the White House. He was Reagan’s Duval County campaign manager in his successful 1980 campaign.
He loved the Gators, especially football, rarely missing a game. An avid sportsman, he loved hunting and fishing, tennis and golf, but did not like hiking or walking, saying that the person who was walking was just a person who had missed his ride!
He was active in business and civic life, serving as a director on the boards of Baptist Hospital, St. Luke’s/Mayo Hospital, Flagship Bank and as chairman of the board of Sun Bank. He served as president of the River Club, downtown Rotary Club, Jacksonville Country Day School, Young Life and the University of Florida Gator Boosters. He headed the committee to establish the Jacksonville Navy Memorial.
In all his many adventures-business, civic, travel, sports, etc., he never failed to be scrupulously honest. He loved to “work hard, play hard.”
Almost every social or family event was punctuated by his storytelling, tales which grew more fantastical and hilarious with each telling. He was a man of his times, a proud member of the Greatest Generation. He will be missed!
He is survived by Betty, his daughter, Betsy, his son Russell (Sandy), his son Bryant, Jr. (Joan), and his son Charlie (Laura), eleven grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren, and his brother Dr. Richard Green Skinner Jr.
Close to his heart are his “do it all” companion for over 30 years, Heyward Jones, his dedicated live-in caregiver Beth Jones Batistin, and his secretary/house manager Cydnie Forrest.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 am on Thursday, March 28, at the First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville, 118 East Monroe St., Jacksonville, FL 32202.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Young Life Jacksonville.
Arrangements by Hardage-Giddens, THE OAKLAWN CHAPEL, 4801 San Jose Blvd., Jacksonville.
Please sign the guestbook at www.hardagegiddensoaklawnchapel.com