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Billy Larry Cypress

Billy Larry Cypress was born into the Bear Clan on September 13, 1942 in a chickee at Royal Palm Hammock along the Tamiami Trail.  He always valued education and had a great passion for learning.  Cypress enjoyed school and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” at McArthur High School.  In 1965, after completing four years of college on a full scholarship to Stetson University, Billy L. Cypress became the first Florida Seminole to receive a four-year college degree.  He went on to earn a Master of Arts Degree from Arizona State University in 1972, then worked toward his Doctorate at Penn State University.

Billy Larry Cypress
Billy L. Cypress, veterans, and the Seminole Tribe’s Color Guard during a grand entry at the Seminole Tribal Fair in 2001. (Photo courtesy Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)

It seemed only fitting for a man who so highly regarded education to start a career in the field of teaching.  Billy Cypress started his first teaching job at the Seminole Tribe’s Head Start Program in 1965.  Cypress’ teaching career was put on hold when he was drafted into the Army.  Cypress actively served in the Army from 1966 to 1968, rising to the rank of Major as a combat platoon leader, the highest military rank of any tribal member in the 20th century.  Cypress remained in the Army Reserves until 1982.  When Cypress returned home in 1968, he began teaching English at Driftwood Middle School in Broward County.  Cypress continued teaching at Driftwood until 1971, when he started working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA): first as Education Officer, then as Education Specialist.  He continued working for the BIA for eighteen years.

Billy Cypress was proud of his culture and always eager to share his knowledge of Native Americans.  Cypress was active in Native American and cultural organizations throughout the country.  In 1989, he became the Executive Director of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.  While at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Cypress was asked to serve as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).  He served as Chairman of the NMAI from 1994 to 1998.  Billy L. Cypress remained at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum from 1989 until his passing.

Although Billy L. Cypress passed from this world on April 12, 2004, his educational values and contributions will remain “gifts that keep on giving.”  On August 20, 2004, at the regular meeting of the Tribal Council, the Seminole Tribe of Florida honored the memory of Billy L. Cypress by renaming the “Higher Education Scholarship Program” the “Billy L. Cypress Scholarship Program.” 

Library Staff

Program Manager (Tribal Wide): (954).989.6840 Ext. 10520
Site Supervisors: 
Hollywood (954).989.6840 Ext. 10520 
Brighton (863).763. 3572 Ext. 14624
Immokalee (239).867.5303 Ext. 16436
Big Cypress (863).902.3200 Ext 13124



Big Cypress
31000 Josie Billie Hwy
Clewiston, FL  33440
P: (863) 902-3200  F: (863) 902-3218
650 Harney Pond Rd. Suite 110
Okeechobee, FL 34974
P: (863) 763-3572 F: (863) 763-1525

Fort Pierce
3502 Minnie Tommie Howard Circle
Ft. Pierce, FL 34945
P: (772) 467-2454 F: (772) 489-4110


3100 N 63rd Ave.
Hollywood, FL  33024
P: (954) 989-6840 F: (954) 233-9515
295 Stockade Rd.
Immokalee, FL  34142
P: (239) 867-5303   F: (239) 658-1369

3539 Plover Ave
Naples, FL  34117
P: (239) 354-5220   F: (239) 352-1521

Non-Resident / Out-of-State

6401 Harney Rd., Suite E
Tampa, FL  33610
P: (813) 246-3100 F: (813) 663-9034

14680 SW 8th Street, Suite 214
Miami, FL 33184
P: (305) 553-8245   F: (305) 222-8139


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