Bishop E. L. Sheppard was born to Charlie and Elizabeth Austin Sheppard on July 15, 1928 in Tampa, Florida. He prided himself upon the premise that he was raised in the ghetto of Tampa without a father and was faced with many dysfunctions that society turns its back upon. Even though his parents' marriage ended after 8 years, God used this event to develop his leadership abilities as he assisted his mother in providing for their family. He started school at the age of nine and completed his secondary education at nineteen. He married Floria Chavers of Winter Park, Florida on December 25, 1953. They had five children: Elbert Jr. Elliott, Elaine, Ronald Elijah, and Donald Elisha.
He graduated from Florida A & M University with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Religious Education and later with a Master’s degree in Administration and Guidance. He completed further postgraduate study at Florida State University.
He worked in the Gadsden County Schools of Quincy. He began at Carter Parramore High School, teaching English and History. There he also started his guidance counseling career and continued it at James A. Shanks High School. God gave him the opportunity to be a help and mentor to thousands of young people. He retired from the Gadsden County School System in 1997 with 38 years of service.
In 1951, Elder Owen Smith introduced Elder Sheppard to Bradwell, a community in South Quincy. Later that same year, Elder Sheppard was given the opportunity to serve as acting pastor of Midway COGIC. After Bishop Nesbitt ordained him, he subsequently appointed him as pastor of Midway COGIC in April 1952. He remained pastor there for 35 years. While he pastored in Midway, he also accepted the challenge to organize and build a church in Bradwell. Still feeling the need to spread the gospel, in 1961 he established another church in the Quincy community, St. John COGIC, and a mission in Havana, Florida.
Because of Elder Sheppard’s faithfulness and impact in the Big Bend area, Bishop Melton Sconiers created what we know as the Big Bend District and appointed Elder Sheppard to serve as District Superintendant in 1988. Subsequently, this appointment made a significant impact, not only in the Big Bend area, but also in the entire Western Florida Jurisdiction. He served faithfully as the second Administrative Assistant to the late Bishop Timothy Herbert Thompson and first Administrative Assistant to the late Bishop Melton Lewis Sconiers. Bishop Chandler David Owens appointed Elder Sheppard fourth Jurisdictional Prelate of Western Florida in August 1996. During his tenure as Bishop, he implemented the following initiatives: maintaining our holiness heritage; revising our state tithing system; preparing for and serving our youth; organizing for church growth and extension; and maximizing the use of our state property.
Anyone who attended St. John COGIC would remember his tenaciousness for everyone to attend all Thursday night pastoral teaching, even on Thanksgiving night. At St. John, we remember the overpacked pastoral Sunday morning services where the Holy Ghost would fall and rest on the hearts of the people. We remember his vision for a new sanctuary and the many sacrifices that he made to make it come alive, thereby purchasing 10 acres of land. We can all remember the sacrifices that he made for humanity. Bishop Sheppard was a giant, superstar, celebrity, but he was most of all a saint. He always had time for children, adults, and senior citizens. Everyone was important to him. Bishop Sheppard prided himself upon always being accessible to the people, thus keeping an open door policy.
Bishop Sheppard was a gospel preacher, and civic and community leader. He dedicated his life to the ministry through prayer, service, and commitment. He was a “Man Who Stood Tall Among Men.” Bishop Sheppard departed this life on Friday, December 11, 1998 at 2:40 PM leaving us with a healthy church and a legacy filled with integrity.