'Mr. Clay County' Remembered for Most, J.P. Hall Known for Lending Helping Hand
Cravey, Beth Reese, The Florida Times Union
GREEN COVE SPRINGS -- J.P. Hall Jr. had a mantra, a phrase he used all the time, with family and friends and people he just met.
"Call me," he would say, "if I can do something for you."
And Hall, who died July 15 at age 70 after a bout with cancer, did something for a lot of people. He was legendary not only for his statewide political influence, but also for his charitable work, friends and family said.
"He was a great Floridian whose indelible mark will be felt by generations to come. We will always remember J.P. for his big and loving heart -- a heart that poured out caring to his community," said Gov. Jeb Bush, in a message included in a eulogy at Wednesday's memorial service for Hall.
An estimated 1,000 people showed up at Hall's home church, Hickory Grove Baptist in Green Cove Springs, to celebrate his life. Several hundred people also braved sweltering heat for the graveside service that followed -- most of them were brought there from the church in donated shuttle buses -- and gathered later at a luncheon at the Hall family ranch south of the city.
"This is a celebration. J.P. loved a good party," said Ferrell Mills, a retired Hickory Grove pastor who was also a family friend. "[He and I] had a good time. I loved to tell jokes and he loved to laugh at them. He'll be missed.
"Nobody can fill his shoes," Mills said, "but the legacy will be carried on, the work will be carried on."
Clay County Commissioner Dale Wilson said, "If a human being could ever be irreplaceable, then J.P. is that human being."
Hall was a Green Cove Springs native whose father, J.P. Hall Sr., was Clay County sheriff for 36 years. The son made a name for himself in law enforcement, business and politics. He graduated from the FBI Academy and was a deputy sheriff; he was president of the Bank of Green Cove Springs and J.P. Hall and Sons, a family-owned land and timber company; and had an interest in the Wells Fargo security company.
Hall also built such influence in local and state political circles that candidates seeking office in Clay County made his office at the bank their first stop. He came to be known as "Mr. Clay County."
Speaker of the House John Thrasher, R-Orange Park, read the eulogy. The mourners included state University System Chancellor Adam Herbert, state Sen. Jim Horne, R-Orange Park, State Attorney Harry Shorstein, Clay Sheriff Scott Lancaster, St. Johns County Sheriff Neil Perry and numerous local, county and state law enforcement officers, in uniform.
But most of the memories expressed at the services and the luncheon were not about politics. They were about Hall as a family man and friend, and about his compassion, generosity and lifelong desire to give back to the community.
Some of Hall's largesse was well-known, such as the J.P. Hall Sr. Children's Charities organization he named in honor of his father. For almost 20 years, the charity has held an annual Christmas party for underprivileged children and also has a scholarship program. Hall is credited with helping establish Quigley House, Clay County's shelter for victims of domestic abuse, by donating its first building. …