The City of Port St. Joe and the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency will host the dedication of the Billy Joe Rish Memorial Parking Lot at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 12. The ceremony will be held on the parking lot, located at the southeast corner of US-98 and Fourth Street in Port St. Joe, where the offices of Rish Gibson stood for over 40 years. The public is invited to attend.
Billy Joe Rish was born in 1932 in Wewahitchka, a third-generation Gulf County resident. After graduating from Wewahitchka High School in 1950, he worked in a dairy and owned a gas and appliance store until he was drafted into the army during the Korean Conflict. Upon discharge from the army, Billy Joe enrolled in the University of Florida, earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and his law degree. He was admitted to the Bar in 1962.
Billy Joe and his wife, Carol, were married in 1958. They have two children, Cathy and Jay, and seven grandchildren. Rish was a strong presence in the Methodist Church; he taught an adult Sunday School class for 44 years and served as a delegate to the Annual, Jurisdictional, and General Conferences.
Billy Joe was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1970, serving four consecutive terms before retiring. He was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee for four years, during which time he prosecuted the only successful impeachment trial in the State of Florida of three Supreme Court Justices and one Circuit Judge. While in the House, he fought diligently for the right of the disabled to have access to parks. The park on Cape San Blas, built expressly for the disabled, bears his name in tribute to his efforts. From 1995-96, Rish served on the Ethics Committee for the State of Florida.
Billy Joe served the City of Port St. Joe as legal counsel for more than 35 years, 32 of those years beside Mayor Frank Pate. During that time, a major accomplishment was the acquisition of the present-day marina site. Rish said, “We’ve been through a lot of changes in Gulf County, but the people here are good, tough, resilient people.”
In 2005, when asked how he would like to be remembered in 100 years, Billy Joe responded, through his ever-present grin, “I have tried to be fair, and I have returned a little bit of the many blessings God has given me. It has been a great trip, and I have had a ball!”
Mr. Rish passed away on May 17, 2008.
The land for the parking lot was purchased from the Rish Estate by the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency and subsequently deeded to the City of Port St. Joe. The construction of the parking lot was provided through a grant from a USDA Rural Business and the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency.