Joseph Fleming Chapman, III, local businessman, philanthropist and at one time one of the most influential Democrats in the state, died on Sunday December 11 2016 following a battle with dementia. He was 78.
Chapman grew up in Millville. His first job was as an usher at the Martin Theatre, then he got a paper route, and then he worked at a grocery store. Chapman went on from the grocery store to get both his undergraduate and law degree at the University of Florida. Not long after graduation, he met Haydon Burns and became a key player the Democrat's bid for governor.
He then became the Chief General Counsel for the State of Florida's Governor's office. In the position, he was instrumental in convincing Walt Disney that Florida was a great place to build a theme park. He returned home and was elected to serve in the Florida Legislature as a Democrat. He served two terms from 1968 to 1972.
In 1983, following too many interactions with bankers whose attitude he didn't like and, his family said, inspired by "one of his favorite movies, 'It's a Wonderful Life,' " he decided to start his own bank, Peoples First. The bank became one of the largest in the area.
Chapman also served multiple terms as Chairman of the Bay Medical Center Board of Trustees from 1988-2000m and was instrumental in getting voter approval for a half-cent sales tax to support the hospital.more » « less