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Courts / Law

Former Florida Justice Hatchett Honored At Supreme Court

Hatchett_050721.jpg
Florida Supreme Court
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Former Justice Joseph Hatchett was born in Clearwater and became the first Black justice on the Supreme Court, serving from 1975 to 1979.

Justice Joseph Hatchett, who died last week at age 88, was born in Clearwater and became the first Black justice on the Supreme Court.

Former Justice Joseph Hatchett, who died last week at age 88, lay in state Friday in the rotunda of the Florida Supreme Court.

Hatchett was born in Clearwater and became the first Black justice on the Supreme Court, serving from 1975 to 1979, when President Jimmy Carter named him as a federal appeals-court judge.

He then served two decades on the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

He stepped down in 1999 and returned to a law practice in Tallahassee.

Several current and former justices and judges attended Friday’s ceremony.

Current United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida Chief Judge Mark Walker met Hatchett when he was a young law clerk.

“What I think distinguishes Judge Hatchett, a great judge, from other judges is that at the end of the day, above all in addition to being brilliant, Judge Hatchett had a wise and understanding heart,” Walker said.

Hatchett graduated from Florida A&M University in 1954 and went on to earn a law degree from Howard University in 1959.

When he took the Florida Bar exam in 1959, he could not stay in the hotel where it was administered because of the Jim Crow system, according to a news release from the Supreme Court.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee.

Hatchett will be buried Monday in Dunedin.

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