Thomas K. Spencer




Thomas K. Spencer was born in Pasco County but resided in Hillsborough County most of his life. He devoted his youthful efforts to the printer's trade and was a pioneer in the newspaper business in Florida. At 15, he enlisted in the Florida Infantry as a drummer boy. He served a year before his superior officers became aware that he was under the required age and sent him home with a military discharge. But with martial spirit he re-enlisted, this time as a blockade runner. He was captured by the enemy and languished in a military prison for seven months. As soon as he was released, he was off again in a cavalry company for the Southern cause. He was the last man in the Confederate service of the state of Florida, having been sent with dispatches and not returning until twenty days after the surrender.

After the war, Spencer returned home and attempted to revive The Florida Peninsular newspaper, would would become the The Tampa Tribune. Under President Cleveland's first administration, Spencer was Collector of Customs, and in 1893 he was elected Sheriff, a position he held for eight years.

As Sheriff, Spencer planned and began the work that stands as one of the monuments of his official career - the system of good roads which have brought Hillsborough County favorable notice and proved of inestimable advantage to its residents.  In office, he was over watchful to his duty, and he executed the important tasks of the public trust with a conscientious regard for its responsibilities.  Levin Armwood, the first black deputy sheriff, worked for Spencer and on May 27, 1895, sheriff Spencer wrote:  "To whom it may concern . . . This is to certify that Levin Armwood is a Deputy Sheriff in and for Hillsborough County and is authorized to carry prisoners to court."  Hillsborough County's Armwood High School was named after Levin Armwood's Daughter, Blanche.

Because of illness, Spencer retired from public life on January 1, 1901, and was in fact, seriously ill with LaGrippe, which developed into pneumonia. He died on May 6 at the age of 56. In accounts from his obituary, it was noted that "no citizen had done more for the upbuilding of Tampa as he, and he gained the respect and love of its citizens."


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