William “Bill” Amis, a former Merced County sheriff who served two terms in office in the 1980s, died last Wednesday, July 6, according to reports received before the Times press deadline this week.
Details about his passing were not immediately available; however, several community leaders spoke up to remember the man who served Merced County and the Sheriff’s Department in various roles for nearly 27 years.
“Merced County benefitted while he was alive, and we will miss him now that he is gone,” said Lloyd Pareira, chairman of the Merced County Board of Supervisors, who adjourned this week’s board meeting in memory of Amis.
“He was the sheriff back when I was a kid,” Pareira recalled. “The first sheriff of Merced County that I can remember seeing as a young person. … More currently, his passion was spending time with family and hot rods. He was always at car shows, and had something cool to drive.
Former County Supervisor John Pedrozo remembered Amis as a “Good man who generated a lot of respect. Always pleasant to deal with.”
Hank Strength, who worked for the Sheriff’s Department from 1972 to 2001 and was in charge of the County Jail for most of that time, said Amis was “the kind of man who would give you help whenever you needed it.” “He was well liked by members of the department,” Strength added.
Longtime resident Jim Cunningham described Amis as an “old school” sheriff who loved classic cars. “He followed in the footsteps of Sheriffs John Latorraca and Jess Bowling,” Cunningham added.
Amis was married to his wife Cynthia for 61 years, and they made their home in north Merced. They had three sons: William III, Darin and Marc. Amis also had a son, Jeff, and a daughter, Nancy, by a previous marriage.
Amis will be buried at the National Cemetery at Santa Nella. It will be a private ceremony with family members only, as per his request.
The following is from a Merced County biography series of sheriffs who served the region:
Sheriff Bill Amis
William Calvin Amis, Jr. was born to William C. and Nettie M. Amis in Sherill, Arkansas, in 1937. The family relocated to California in 1939 as a result of the Great Depression, ultimately settling in the Planada-Le Grand area. William Jr. worked at a variety of farms and canneries throughout the area to help support his family during these lean times.
From an early age, Amis would be fascinated by the planes flying to and from nearby Castle Air Force Base and joined the Air Force in 1954. His eight years of service included tours in Germany, France, and New Mexico.
While stationed in New Mexico, Amis was married twice. He wed Joann Olguin in 1959 and had two children, Jeffery and Nancy. His second union was to Cynthia Triviz, with whom he had three sons, William III, Darin and Marc.
Following his military discharge, Amis joined his father in the family business and was sworn-in by Sheriff Jess Bowling as a reserve deputy sheriff the following year.
Following the sudden death of Undersheriff Mickey La Cava in 1965, Amis was sworn in as a full-time deputy. This appointment made Amis one of only eight patrol deputies, all of whom were assigned resident posts. He attended Merced College during the day and graduated in 1970. His education would continue throughout his career.
In 1969, Amis was promoted to Sergeant and would be instrumental in establishing the first Narcotics Task Force in Merced County. His contributions would earn him a promotion by Sheriff Earl McKeown to lieutenant in 1973.
Later that year, McKeown died unexpectedly and then Undersheriff Jess Bowling was appointed to fill the Sheriff’s unexpired term until a special election could be held. Amis was promoted into the vacated Undersheriff’s position.
Sheriff Bowling became ill and, on November 1979, Amis was appointed Sheriff for the remainder of Bowling’s term. Amis filed as a Sheriff’s candidate in the 1980 election, ultimately winning the office. He was sworn in as Sheriff in January of 1981.
Amis was re-elected in 1984 and retired in 1989, after nearly 27 years of service to Merced County.
His resignation, however, was tendered in 1988 amid a County Grand Jury investigation into alleged misuse of a special sheriff’s deputies fund, according to news reports at the time. Amis denied any wrongdoing in connection with handling the fund.