As a boxer in high school, he was always the smallest of the group. The nickname “Kayo”, little brother of cartoon character Moon Mullins, was bestowed upon him. He was born in Brooklyn, Texas; on Christmas Eve in 1916, to A.J. and Florence Murphy and had six brothers and two sisters. The family moved to Kissimmee when Kayo was in second grade. His childhood was spent attending local schools, enjoying summers at the old swimming hole on Mill Slough and climbing up trees to watch movies in an open air theater on the corner of Monument Avenue and the railroad tracks. He later graduated from St. Leo Preparatory College where he excelled in sports and was inducted into the St. Leo College Athletic Hall of Fame.
In February, 1942; four months after marrying Virginia Bunting, Kayo was drafted into the U.S. Army. Assigned to the 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the famous 82nd Airborne Division, he fought for 2 ½ years in major campaigns in the Mediterranean and European Theater of Operations. The Purple Heart was awarded to Sgt. Murphy for wounds received at Anzio Beachhead in Italy, along with a Battlefield Commission to 2nd Lieutenant during that battle.
On point the day Gen. George Patton drove up in his command car, he asked Kayo “What’s going on Sergeant?”, to which Kayo replied “We’re holding our own, General.” The most unforgettable memory was in Holland when Kayo’s regiment fought to capture five bridges held by the Nazis. A breakdown in communications kept the regiment from capturing the fifth bridge and became the focal point of the book and movie “A Bridge Too Far”. Robert Redford played the main character, which was a composite of Kayo and his commander, Major Julian Cook. It was at the Battle of the Bulge that Kayo was awarded the Silver Star. By the end of the war, he received a total of fifteen awards, decorations and citations, including two foreign ones.Returning to Kissimmee in 1945, his career in law enforcement, according to Kayo – just happened when in 1953, Sheriff Bob Buckles asked Kayo to be his chief deputy, becoming one of only three employees at the time. Kayo’s 1968 campaign for Sheriff was successful and he held that position until retirement in 1985. By then the department had grown into a 183 person, $3.75 million operation. Kayo and Virginia raised four children; at his death on January 1, 2005, he left eleven grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.
Sources: “Osceola County Centennial Book”: “Reminiscing in the Valley of the Tohopekaliga” by Jovida Campbell Fletcher; “Osceola News Gazette” January 6, 2005
Photo Courtesy: Patsy Murphy Wells and Osceola County Historical Society photo collection