Tampa Epoch publisher Bill Sharpe found dead at 59

CL wrote a feature story on Sharpe back in January. In the piece, Sharpe said that he had received unrelenting criticism when he announced that he would publish a homeless paper, which he decided to do well before the Tampa City Council ultimately passed a partial ban on homelessness that allowed newspaper hawkers to continue to sell papers last October.

The paper was on the streets by mid-November. Sharpe said that in the first month or so after the Epoch began publishing, in the comments section of articles written about his paper in the Tampa Bay Times or Tampa Tribune, ?80 to 90 percent hated me.? But in January he said that public opinion had swayed to the other side.

When news first broke that he was going to publish the paper, which came after a wrenching yearlong debate about a panhandlng ban, there was anger in some quarters of Tampa ? including a Facebook page calling for an advertiser boycott of all of Sharpe's publications.

Among those critics was Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who said he personally liked Sharpe very much, but was not in support of the paper.

Somebody who knew Sharpe in the South Tampa community, Vicky Pollyea, wrote on her Facebook page that "Tampa lost a real leader, free thinker and many of us have lost a special friend. From the first time I met him at some contentious community meeting, Bill was always coming up with creative solutions and reaching out to those who needed a voice. From SOHO Bill, to the Owner / Editor of the South Tampa Community News where he gave a voice to neighborhoods and independent businesses, to his creative advocacy for the homeless and the creation of EPOCH, Bill was there whenever he could make a difference. Community Patriot sums it all up."

Although it's not something that anybody is probably thinking about now, the viability of the Epoch seriously has to be in question. Though he had some support, the paper never would have come together if not for Sharpe's tireless efforts.

  • Bill Sharpe

Tampa Police are confirming that Bill Sharpe, the publisher of the South Tampa Community News and the homeless newspaper Tampa Epoch, was found dead this morning at his office in Tampa, and they say it was by suicide.

The only information known at this time was that an employee found Sharpe when he arrived at work this morning, where he was found dead. He was 59.

The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner has not yet determined the cause of death.

Sharpe has been a fixture in South Tampa for the past decade, having created sohotampa.com, a site highlighting events in the community, beginning in 2001. And he was the producer of a number of events over the years, including most recently Tampa Bay Seafood Festival, held last weekend in Curtis Hixon Park.

Previously in his illustrious career Sharpe was once chair of the Pinellas County Democratic Party, but it was his work helping to create Tampa's first newspaper for the homeless - Tampa Epoch, that put him in the headlines often in recent months.


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