QUILLIAN S YANCEY
Public Servant Quillian Yancey, 82, Was `Of The Highest
2005| By Kelly Griffith, Sentinel Staff Writer
Former legislator and Polk County state attorney Quillian Yancey, a public servant for half his life, will be remembered as a man of integrity, those who knew him said Tuesday. Yancey died Monday of heart failure. He was 82.
"You are talking about a man who was of the highest integrity," said the Rev. Thomas McCloskey, who will officiate at Yancey's funeral Thursday. "He was honest, upfront. The kind of public official who would take the time to spend with any person."
Yancey was known by a trademark Stetson hat and no-nonsense attitude. He served in the Florida House from 1966 to 1972 and in the Senate from 1990 to 1992. Upon deciding not to run for re-election in 1992, he said,
McCloskey, 53, remembers the first time he met Yancey, when he was a seminary student returning home and Yancey was the guest speaker at his church. He said he spoke that day on integrity, a fitting topic for the man he knew for 30 years. "When I was a young preacher, he would take time with me. That's the kind of man he was," McCloskey said.
Yancey also had been an FBI agent and for a few months also served as Polk County's sheriff.
"He was really someone who took public service seriously," said his son, Polk Circuit Judge Jay Yancey.
The son of a Georgia sharecropper, the elder Yancey served in the Army during World War II in Europe. After graduating from Florida Southern College in 1949, he became an FBI agent stationed in New York and Washington, D.C.
He earned a law degree from George Washington Law School and returned to Florida. He was elected Polk County's state attorney in 1976.
Current State Attorney Jerry Hill described Yancey as an "intense man" with firm convictions, who wasn't shy about expressing his feelings. Hill credited Yancey with modernizing the office. "He was of the old school that if he looked at you in the eyes and told you something, then you could take that to the bank," Hill said. "He would expect no less from anyone else."
Yancey retired in 1984 to spend more time on his 260-acre ranch in Lakeland but returned six months later to run for the state Senate. He was known to sing at his own campaign rallies.
He was active for many years in the First United Methodist Church in Lakeland, serving in numerous leadership capacities at the local, state and national level within the Methodist Church.
"He was committed to his church, willing to invest himself," McCloskey said.
Yancey is survived by his wife, Norma; two sons, Jay Yancey of Lakeland and John Yancey of Knoxville, Tenn., and a daughter, Lynn Suzanne Burry of Jacksonville. Heath Funeral Home in Lakeland is handling arrangements.