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Business Observer Thursday, Jul. 22, 2021 6 months ago

Attorney behind several law firms in the region dies

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89-year-old Bill Korp was a mentor and friend to many.

Attorney William “Bill” Korp was one of those people who didn’t have a lot to say, but when he did speak it was important. 

“Bill was not flashy. He listened more than he spoke,” says fellow attorney Scott Gordon. “If you were smart enough to listen to him then you learned a lot.” 

Korp died June 25, 2021. He was 89. Gordon, with the Sarasota-based firm Lutz, Bobo and Telfair P.A., knew Korp, who helped launch several law firms in the region, for around 25 years. They met around the time Korp joined the Abel Band law firm in 1998, and their friendship continued when Korp joined Lutz, Bobo, and Telfair in 2009.

Korp was more than just a friend to Gordon. In many ways, he was also a mentor. 

Something that’s always stuck out to Gordon through the years was when Korp advised Gordon to focus on a specialty in law rather than general practice. This particular piece of advice advanced Gordon’s career much further than if he had stayed in general practice, he says. The pair also spent time over the years hosting free seminars throughout the state. “I’ve done a lot of driving with Bill through the years,” he says. 
Korp, says Gordon, loved working and was passionate about his work. “He came into work every day,” Gordon says. “He could have retired a long time ago.” That included the recent Monday before he checked himself into the hospital.

“He was a great attorney and an even better gentleman. If you came into contact with him, you would eventually learn from him,” Gordon adds. “Bill’s the type of guy who would schedule business lunches with people he would not normally see just to stay in touch.” 

Korp was born Nov. 29, 1932, in Lima, Ohio. A year later, his family moved to Orlando. He attended the University of Florida on a basketball scholarship before being commissioned by the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed in Japan during the Korean Conflict, attaining the rank of First Lieutenant. 

Korp left the Air Force in 1959 and took advantage of the G.I. Bill. He enrolled at Stetson University College of Law in St. Petersburg, and then, following graduation in 1962, Korp founded the Stinnett, Surfus, Korp & Payne law firm in Sarasota with colleagues Robert Stinnett, Jerry Surfus and Howard Payne. Richard Nelson eventually joined the firm as well. 

Several years later, Korp established Korp & Wheeler, Attorneys at Law, in Venice. In 1979, he helped organize the Isphording, Korp, Payne & Muirhead law practice. Roger Isphording, Howard Payne and Bill Muirhead remained his partners for almost 20 years. 

In addition to his nearly six decades practicing law, Korp, according to his official obituary, enjoyed sailing, fishing and pretty much all water sports. He especially loved restoring old boats, his family says — though perhaps the watercrafts didn’t always love him back. That's because among his favorites were his sailboat, Ricochet, so named for its tendency of bouncing off docks, and his fishing boat aptly named Bad Companion. One of his great joys, his family says, was teaching his son and his son’s friends to fish, camp, and water ski.

Korp was also active in many Florida civic and political activities. He served on the State Committee to Reelect President Gerald Ford, and in 1976 Ford invited Bill and his wife, Kate, to a State Dinner at the White House honoring the Emperor and Empress of Japan. Korp was State Chairman of the Young Republican Club from 1964 to 1966.

Meanwhile, although he didn’t know Korp at the time, Gordon will tell you Korp was one of the founding fathers of practicing law for residential owned manufacturing housing communities in the early 1980s. Korp is the reason Gordon specialized in assisting mobile home owners and residents. 

Gordon isn’t the only one who can call himself a friend and mentee of Korp. 

“Bill took me under his wing and gave me some good advice,” says Barry Mazer with Fidelity National Title Group in Sarasota. “I’m glad I always listened to him. Because I listened to him, I made some fortunate decisions I wouldn’t have made without his guidance.” 

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