NEW PORT RICHEY — William Harry “Jack” Mitchell Jr., a member of the prominent Mitchell family who were long-time ranchers in west Pasco, has died in Ocala, where he lived for nearly three decades.
Mitchell, who was 88, died Monday.
His daughter, Linda Chapman, described him as a no-nonsense Florida cowboy who enjoyed life, but “didn’t have any foolishness about him.” He moved to Ocala in 1986 and was a rancher there as well.
“He was just like John Wayne,” Chapman said. “That’s what he loved. Horses, cows and running the ranch. That was his love in life.”
A 52-acre county park on Cypress Lakes Boulevard in New Port Richey is named for him. At W.H. “Jack” Mitchell Jr. Park, the amenities include a basketball court, athletic fields, a picnic area, a playground and a fishing area.
Mitchell was born Aug. 23, 1925, the son of W.H. Mitchell, who moved his family from Ohio to St. Petersburg and began buying up land in southwestern Pasco County. The Mitchell ranch, which covered thousands of acres, was started in 1942.
In a 2005 interview with The Tampa Tribune, Mitchell’s brother, Jim, recalled the time the two of them drove 49 head of cattle from Hudson to New Port Richey down a limestone and unpaved U.S. 19.
The Mitchells played a key role in the development of west Pasco, and numerous landmarks bear the family name. In addition to the county park, others include J.W. Mitchell High School and Mitchell Ranch Road.
“He was a wonderful father,” Chapman said.
In addition to his daughter, Mitchell is survived by a son, William Harry Mitchell III, and three grandchildren.