William D. “Bill” Brinton, an attorney who led successful campaigns to limit outdoor signs, create term limits for city offices and protect trees, died Monday morning. He was 64.
“He was probably the greatest example of the servant/leader I have known in my life,” said Nina Waters, president of the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. “He was tenacious in every cause he chose … It’s a huge loss for this community.”
“He was absolutely driven as far as anything he did,” said Graham Allen, who worked with Mr. Brinton for 41 years. “He probably accomplished as much or more than any president of the Jacksonville Bar Association ever has. He was a driving force in anything he did.”
In 1987, frustrated that City Council seemed unwilling to enact an ordinance to implement recommendations from a Jacksonville Community Council Inc. study that argued for limits be placed on outdoor advertising, Mr. Brinton co-founded Citizens Against Proliferation of Signs, CAPSigns for short.
Mr. Brinton knew the city charter provided for citizen-initiated amendments. So he wrote an amendment and organized a petition drive to get his amendment on the ballot. Voters approved. It was the start of a three decade long battle that made Brinton “one of the preeminent national experts on sign regulation and the First Amendment,” said Tracy Arpen, his CAPSigns co-founder.
He used the same approach — placing a citizen-initiated amendment on the ballot following a petition drive — to enact term limits on elected city positions in 1991. In 2000, he co-founded Citizens for Tree Preservation and once again put a citizen-initiated on the ballot to protect trees. Voters approved overwhelmingly.
He also led campaigns to get City Council to pass an anti-litter law and led an unsuccessful effort to create a dedicated funding source, a one-mill property tax, for the public library system.
CAPSigns and Citizens for Tree Preservation merged to become Scenic Jacksonville. In May, he was honored at a luncheon for his work on behalf of Scenic Jacksonville. During the luncheon, it was announced that an endowment has been established at the Community Foundation which, when fully funded at $300,000, will support the work of Scenic Jacksonville.
Born in Kansas City, Mr. Brinton came to Jacksonville in 1959 when his father became head of the city’s public library system. After graduating from Lee High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a law degree from the the University of Florida.
After interning in the summer of 1976 with the Jacksonville law firm Freeman, Richardson, where Allen was a young attorney, he joined that firm in 1977. In 1989, he and Allen formed Allen, Brinton, Simmons & McCarthy. In 2000, Rogers Towers bought that firm and Allen and Mr. Brinton became shareholders in Rogers Towers.
“He was staunchly loyal,” Allen said. “He always had your back.”
He was also a dedicated family man who had two daughters and three grandchildren to whom he was known as Pops.
Survivors include his wife, Cathy Brinton, daughters Caroline Brinton and Leslie Bicksler, and grandchildren, Luke and Adams Graham, and Virginia Bicksler, all of Jacksonville.
A funeral is planned for 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, 1773 Blanding Blvd.
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