End of Watch: The Death of Santa Rosa Sheriff Bart Broxson

Sheriff Bart Broxson

The Family Legacy

It was never going to work. He was an outsider, and being an outsider in Santa Rosa County, Florida in the 1950s meant that there was no “getting in.”

Not that he was really an outsider – he was from Santa Rosa County. As a matter of fact, his family had lived in Holley, in the southern part of the county, for many years. Bart, a whatever-it-took-to-make-a-living guy, had been elected county commissioner for that area. But he wasn’t from the northern part of the county, where the politics and the power were centered. Milton was the county seat and, if you weren’t from Milton, you probably didn’t have much of a chance at being elected to a county-wide office…especially sheriff!

Bart and Anne Broxson

The Broxson family – all thirteen of them – lived in a house that Bart built on the road that extended from Holley to the end of the peninsula at Pensacola Bay. The road today is known as US Hwy 98. Even though there was not a lot of money, there was a lot of love. Bart and Anne did whatever was necessary to make ends meet. But they instilled in the kids something even more important – character.

So…when Bart felt that he needed to challenge the current sheriff, he knew the battle would be uphill. After all, Marshall Hayes had been sheriff since the end of World War II. Nobody could beat him, so why even try? But in 1956, he did try – and won – to the surprise of the power-center of the county. Bart got right to work…the work of doing the right thing for the right reason. He fired deputies and hired deputies. He reorganized the entire office and made it more efficient. He delivered on every campaign promise. Things were looking good for Santa Rosa County!

On, December 24, 1959, Sheriff Broxson and Deputy Hubert Lowry were at work delivering Christmas turkeys to needy families. Bart, who was driving, pulled out onto Highway 87 and turned north. As soon as 57-year-old Broxson turned the automobile, another vehicle ventured into his lane and headed straight for him…at 80 miles per hour. Sixty-seven feet before impact the skids began, but it was not enough. The vehicle struck Sheriff Broxson’s car head-on, killing him instantly and severely injuring Deputy Lowry.

            It was an awful night for the Broxson family. Their patriarch was gone. Another surprise came the next morning. It is of utmost importance that a county not go without a sheriff, the chief law enforcement officer. In a temporary capacity, Annie Broxson was appointed sheriff of Santa Rosa County. The wife-appointment process was quite common for sheriffs killed in the line of duty. Several others have been appointed across Florida. But…it didn’t make it easy for Annie Broxson. 

            The day after their father’s funeral, three of the Broxson boys were summoned to meet with Florida’s governor, LeRoy Collins. Tim and Donald were both lawmen and John was a preacher. Nonetheless, the governor appointed John. He immediately became the new top cop in the county, making the Broxson family the only family in the United States where father, mother and son served as sheriff of one county in the same week!

Senator John Broxson

In 1962, John was elected as State Representative and two years later became a state senator. Forty-eight years later – in 2010 – the youngest of the Broxson siblings, Doug, was elected as State Representative. He was elected to the State Senate in 2016 and still serves today, 63 years after his father was killed in the line of duty.

Senator Doug Broxson

One response to “End of Watch: The Death of Santa Rosa Sheriff Bart Broxson”

  1. I clearly recall that night as sirens zipped by our house on Hwy 87…we all knew something bad had happened & it was so sad.

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