Sargent Spotlights Brevard’s Sportsmen For Six Decades
By Space Coast Daily // June 5, 2014
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
BILL SARGENT – 2012 INDUCTEE
• Florida Today Writer For 39 Years
• Sportsman & Conservationist
• Community Sports Advocate
Bill Sargent can’t keep track of all the writing awards he has earned. There are contests every year, and Sargent has reeled in awards each year he has submitted an entry.
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“The one I’m most proud of is the Bifflampton Conservation Writer Award presented by the Florida Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation that I got in 1998,’’ said Sargent.
The award recognizes the journalist who during that year had the greatest impact on raising awareness related to Florida conservation issues and efforts, and helping to preserve the indigenous ecosystems of the state.
Sargent will be enshrined in the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame for his lifetime achievement as a journalist, conservationist and contributor to the enjoyment of outdoor sports by three generations of sportsmen and women.
Throughout his 39-year career as an outdoor columnist at Florida Today he was always on the lookout for people, events and circumstances that could bring the outdoors to life for his readers.
MULTI-GENERATIONAL OUTDOORS FAMILY
Sargent’s Brevard roots go way back. His grandparents settled in Micco in 1910, and he was born in Melbourne on January 10, 1941. Benny Rotgers, who was the brother of Sargent’s mother, was an early influence on him.
“My uncle inspired me – he was a great outdoorsman,’’ Sargent said.
“He had the first airboat on the St. Johns in 1940. He had a Model A that could go 30 mph. He experimented with a three-blades before he went to two blades.’’
“Any kid back then who lived in Florida all his life would know a lot about the outdoors,’’ Sargent said.
“I did a lot of fishing with my uncle Benny and a little hunting. We never watched television or played cards. We were always outdoors all the time playing whatever sport was in season or exploring the yet relatively untouched Florida back country.”
Sargent graduated from Melbourne High School in 1959, and attended the University of Tampa for one year before transferring to Muskingum College, which now is Muskingum University, in New Concord, Ohio, where he received his bachelor’s degree in English with minors in American History and Geology.
When he returned to Melbourne after graduating, he covered some high school sporting events for the Melbourne Times as a freelance journalist. In February 1968, Sargent took a full-time job with the Melbourne Times and began writing an outdoors column.
Six months later, Today hired him as a general assignment sports writer, a role that he continued in for the next 15 years, continuing to focus some of his time and work on writing about the outdoors.
OUTDOOR EXPERT & GUIDE TO THE STARS
Being in Brevard and close to many spring training venues afforded Sargent some opportunity to interview national sports celebrities, and, based on a mutual love of outdoor sports, he often hosted them on outdoor excursions.
Since Sargent was the recognized local and regional outdoors expert, players and coaches sought his advice on fishing.
“I remember J.R. Richard, the big pitcher for the Astros,’’ Sargent said.
“He really loved to fish. Walter Alston, the Dodgers manager, loved to shoot skeet. So, I took him to Malabar. I took Claude Osteen and his roommate fishing at Sebastian Inlet. Billy Martin also loved fishing at Sebastian Inlet when he was coaching and managing the Twins.’’
Other notables that Sargent guided on Florida waters and in back country were Ted Williams, Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to climb Mt. Everest, University of Florida football coach Ray Graves, German scientist Wernher von Braun, and many others.
One old friend Sargent wishes he could fish or play golf with one more time is Tom Squires, the former sports editor of Florida Today. Squires died in December after battling Alzheimer’s for several years.
“Tom was the finest sports editor we ever had at Florida Today,’’ Sargent said. “He was a friend, mentor and knew more about sports than anyone I ever met.’’
THE 2014 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 9, 2014.
FOR INFORMATION OR TO SUBMIT A NOMINATION to the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame call 321-615-8111 or e-mail MaverickMultimedia@gmail.com