SWIGERT, WILLIAM T. (BILL), 77
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Ocala - Judge William T. (Bill) Swigert, 77, a brilliant, generous and compassionate man, lost his courageous battle with cancer after eight years and passed away peacefully on April 26, 2014, at Estelle's Hospice House. Throughout his illness, he never complained about his failing health and continued to work as a Circuit Court Judge up until early January of this year.
A resident of Ocala since 1961, Judge Swigert was born in Oak Park, Illinois on May 24, 1936 to Hazel (Weideman) and Theron A. Swigert. The family moved to Coral Gables, Florida when he was six. He obtained a Bachelor's degree from Florida State University in 1958, and earned his law degree with Honors from the University of Florida in 1961. He served on active duty with the United States Army Reserves after graduating from Florida State University as a Distinguished Military Graduate, Second Lieutenant, being honorably discharged from the Reserve in 1966 with the rank of Captain. Upon graduation from law school, he was hired to work for local attorney Willard Ayres, where he quickly became a partner in the firm that came to be known as Ayres, Swigert, Cluster, Tucker and Curry. He was the attorney for the City of Belleview from 1963 - 1970, and Ocala City Prosecutor from 1969 -1970. In 1970, he won election as mayor of Ocala. Re-elected in 1972 to a second two-year term, Swigert left the mayor's office for the county court bench a year later. A year after that, he was elected Circuit Court Judge of the 5th Judicial Circuit (includes Marion, Citrus, Lake, Sumter and Hernando Counties). Swigert was a seated judge in Ocala for 32 years, serving as the 5th Circuit's Chief Judge an unprecedented seven two year consecutive terms. He was certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a Circuit, Family, and Dependency Law Mediator and Arbitrator. After his formal retirement in 2004, he continued to serve as a Senior Judge handling cases on a circuit-wide basis.
He was a member of the Florida Bar Association and served as President of the Marion County Bar Association in 1969. He was admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court, U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Tax Court. He was a charter member of the D.R. Smith American Inn of Court and served as it's first President in 1997. He was also a Florida Licensed Real Estate Broker.
He was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award by the Ocala Jaycees in 1965; recipient of an award by the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency for outstanding contribution to the criminal justice system; inaugural recipient of the 2006 Marion County Bar Association Distinguished Jurist Award; recipient of recognitions and award by the Guardian Ad Litem Program and Court Alternative Program; recipient of recognitions and award for excellence and civility in the legal profession including awards presented by the Marion County Bar Association, the Judiciary of the Fifth Judicial Circuit, The Marion County Board of County Commissioners, the Mayor of Ocala and the Ocala City Council. In 2006, the Marion County Board of County commissioners honored him by naming a Marion County courtroom after him to recognize his long legal career in the community. In 2007, the Florida Legislature designated the U.S. 441 overpass bridge approaching the Marion County Judicial Center between State Road 40 and U.S. Hwy 27 as the "Judge William T. Swigert Bridge." In 2010, he was honored by the Royal Dames as a Royal Knight.
He enjoyed many sports activities but loved playing handball almost every weekday for more than 30 years. He enjoyed traveling with his wife, Sherry (Elder), whom he married in 1982, and spending time at their vacation getaways in Daytona Beach Shores and Waynesville, North Carolina.
Survivors include his devoted wife of 32 years, Sherry, his two sons Bill (Shane) Swigert, Jr. of Oklahoma City, OK; Brett (Nancy) Swigert of Summerfield, FL; his brother Dennis Swigert of Miami, FL; his sister Diane (Ken) Hamersley of Tallahassee, FL; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers Richard, Donn, and Bruce Swigert, and his beloved Siamese cat "Kirby Blue."
He was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Ocala, Sigma Chi Fraternity, Ocala Elks Lodge No.286, Ocala Jaycees, Kiwanis Club and the American Legion.
Bill Swigert was a man of integrity, strength and courage. He strived for excellence in everything that he did and worked as hard as he could to achieve that performance. Those people who were fortunate enough to have known Bill on a personal basis would all say that he loved being with family and friends,
and that he was a gracious host and guest who had a great sense of humor.
Funeral services for Judge Swigert will be held at 2:00 PM on Thursday, May 1, 2014, at First Baptist Church, 2801 SE Maricamp Road, Ocala, FL 34471, with Dr. John Few and The Rev. Donald J. Curran, Jr., officiating. Interment will follow in Highland Memorial Park under the direction of Hiers-Baxley Funeral Services, 910 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Ocala Royal Dames for Cancer Research, P.O. Box 6163, Ocala, FL 34478, or Hospice of Marion County, P.O. Box 4860, Ocala, FL 34478.
Hiers-Baxley Funeral Services
910 E Silver Springs Blvd
Ocala, FL 34470
Published in Ocala Star-Banner from Apr. 29 to Apr. 30, 2014