Willis DeJoinville Booth
November 12, 1924 – August 2, 2018
Willis DeJoinville Booth, 93 died peacefully, August 2nd at his home in Tallahassee. A true Florida “Cracker,” he was born in Safety Harbor, on Nov.12, 1924, into the McMullen/Booth pioneer families.
He is pre-deceased by his sister Ada Fidler, and infant son, John Phillippe. He is survived by his loving wife of 71 years, Mary Frances Humphries, and his three daughters Diane Booth, Deana Brannan (Rick), and Becky Roe, seven grandchildren, fourteen great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, many friends and colleagues.
Willis served in WWII in the Marine Corps in the Pacific theatre and returned from the War to his home to make a life-long career in law enforcement. Willis progressed through the ranks at the Clearwater Police Department to become Chief of Police from 1957-1968. After retirement from the City, he moved his family to Tallahassee in 1968 to serve with the newly established Bureau of Law Enforcement (currently FDLE) where he started as Special Agent, director of criminal investigations, and director of mutual aid helping establish police standards. He retired again in 1984 from the State to take up leadership at the Florida Police Chiefs Association. Of the many contributions he made, Willis counted mentoring generations of law enforcement officers as his most gratifying.
In 2016, Willis was selected as an inductee into the inaugural class of the Law Enforcement Hall of Fame. He also counted one of the most exciting times in his life as recipient of Honor Flight Tallahassee where he was able to be with WWII vets again and have two of his grandchildren surprise him in Washington DC during the whirlwind trip.
Willis was a Christian serving as deacon at Timberlane Church of Christ. He provided guidance in teaching Sunday school classes, preaching, leading prayer, and consulting with elders and members concerning security and benevolence for those in need. Many wonderful times were spent during weekly men’s breakfast which culminated in lively discussion, debate, and lifelong friendships. Willis was an excellent orator who frequently spoke at many venues including church and civic groups. He was known by many as a prayer warrior who stood tall yet humbled himself completely before God.
He had an uncanny gift for remembering names, facts, history, and events; becoming a beloved storyteller who captured the attention of all who would listen to his experiences of his law enforcement career and his knowledge of Florida history and geography.
Willis loved country music, the cowboy life and experienced joy through family excursions camping, boating and enjoying the great outdoors.
The passion of Willis’ life was bluegrass music. He was an avid self-taught multi-instrumentalist who played the piano, banjo, mandolin, and guitar. He played most joyously with his cousin Webster McMullen and developed skill to play with anyone who wanted to pick a tune, but one of his notable highlights was playing and recording with the Timberland Bluegrass Band AKA “The Skillet Lickers”.
Willis led a life that was full of joy, pain, love, and loss, but he now enters the realm of comfort and peace, something he longed for in his remaining days on this earth.
Funeral arrangements directed by Culley’s MeadowWood.
The memorial service for Willis will be held Thursday, August 9th at Timberlane Church of Christ in Tallahassee at 2 p.m. The visitation will be held in Clearwater, FL on Saturday, August 11th from 11:00am to 12:45pm at Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home. The graveside service with honors will follow at 1pm at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park.
- Memorial Service Thursday, August 9, 2018
- Visitation Saturday, August 11, 2018
- Burial with Honors Saturday, August 11, 2018