TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Joseph Hatchett, the first Black justice on the Florida Supreme Court, lay in state Friday in the Supreme Court rotunda after his death last week at age 88.
“He was a great judge, but more importantly a great man,” said Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who was among the people paying their respects to Hatchett. “It’s important that we study his history as a lawyer and as a judge. It reminds us of the importance of the role of the judiciary and the rule of law.”READ MORE: Sheriff: Publix Gunman Timothy Wall Wanted 'To Kill People And Children'
Hatchett served on the Supreme Court from 1975 to 1979, when President Jimmy Carter named him as a federal appeals court judge. He stepped down from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1999 and returned to law practice in Tallahassee.
Several current and former justices and judges attended Friday’s ceremony. Walker, who is the chief judge in the federal Northern District of Florida, said he met Hatchett as a young law clerk.READ MORE: Former CBS4 Journalist Michele Gillen Has Passed Away
“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.MORE NEWS: Florida Congressman, Gubernatorial Hopeful Charlie Crist Makes South Florida Stop
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