June 19, 2007 – His firm helped shape city’s skyline By Jessie-Lynne Kerr, The Times-Union William E. Billy Arnold Jr., an environmentalist, avid sailor and civic leader whose construction company helped change the skyline of Jacksonville, died Sunday of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 86. There will be a memorial service at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church at 4129 Oxford Ave., after a private burial in Evergreen Cemetery. As an environmentalist, Mr. Arnold was known for successfully leading a grass-roots effort in the 1980s to defeat a proposal for a $200 million resort on Fort George Island, a barrier island in Northeast Jacksonville. For his efforts over eight years to preserve the island and get the state to buy 581 acres for preservation, Mr. Arnold was awarded numerous honors. He later was appointed to the city’s Environmental Protection Board. Mr. Arnold got his first taste of the construction business while in high school working summers at construction jobs. He served five years in the Navy in the North Atlantic and Pacific and after the war returned to construction work. In 1956, he bought what became the William E. Arnold Co. He remained president of the company until he retired in 1985. The firm worked on such construction projects as five expansions of the Gator Bowl, now Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, the Barnett Bank Building at Laura and Adams streets, the Naval Hospital at Jacksonville Naval Air Station and the Contemporary Hotel at Walt Disney World. His firm built Friendship Fountain, the Florida Chamber of Commerce building and many schools, banks and other facilities. Among his civic activities, Mr. Arnold was a former president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, the YMCA of Jacksonville and other groups. He was a trustee for Florida Institute of Technology, director of Barnett Bank of Jacksonville, Fidelity Federal Savings and Loan Association and the Jacksonville branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, as well as commodore of the Florida Yacht Club, king of Ye Mystic Revellers and president of the Friars Club. A native of Jacksonville, Mr. Arnold graduated from Lee High School before studying at The Citadel and Auburn University. He was a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. At age 6, he sold cold drinks to make money to buy a sailboat. He won his first sailing trophy at 11 and at 16 won the duPont Cup. He owned several sailboats through the years and sailed Olympic Star Boats as an adult. His cruiser, The Stargazer, could usually be seen ferrying guests to the Florida-Georgia and Gator Bowl football games each year. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Barbara Horne Arnold; three daughters, Christina A. Cross of Myersville, Md., Barbara A. Pickett of Jacksonville and Elizabeth Arnold of Hyattsville, Md.; and four grandchildren. Memorials may be made to the Employees Fund at St. Catherine LaBoure Manor, 1750 Stockton St., Jacksonville, FL 32204, to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 4129 Oxford Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32210 or to St. Johns Riverkeeper, 2800 University Blvd. N., Jacksonville, FL 32211.
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