George P. Raney

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George Pettus Raney was a Florida lawyer and a Democratic politician who served on the Florida Supreme Court from 1885 to 1894. He served as the first Florida native Chief Justice from 1889 to 1894. He was born October 11, 1845. He fought for the South in the Civil War. He served in the Florida Legislature and served two terms as Florida Attorney General from 1877 to 1885. He was one of the founders of the Florida Historical Society. He died January 8, 1911.

Raney was born in Apalachicola, Florida on October 11, 1845. He was the son of David Greenway and Harriet Frances (Jordan) Raney. Raney was tutored as a child. He left the University of Virginia to become serve in the Confederate States Army, and worked his way up through the ranks to Serjeant Major. After the war ended, he returned to school. He passed the Bar in 1867 and opened a legal practice in Apalachicola. On November 4, 1873, he married Mary Elizabeth Lamar, the niece of United States Supreme Court Justice Lucius Q. C. Lamar.

The following year, the voters of Franklin County elected him to the House of Representatives, where he served on the judiciary committee. He was a leader in the Legislature during the efforts to impeach Republican governor Harrison Reed. In 1869, he moved his home to Tallahassee and opened a law practice with Anderson J. Peeler. Around 1873, he on the Leon County Commission.

Raney served on the Democratic Executive Committee in 1876, a time the democratic Party was seeking to regain control of Florida from the Republican Party and reverse the effects of Reconstruction. He was inatrumental in the legal maneuvering behind George F. Drew's successful effort to become Governor and the discommodation of the Republican Party. Governor Drew rewarded his efforts by appointing him State Attorney General.

As Florida Attorney General, he was the counsel for the State's internal improve ment fund. The fund was embroiled in lawsuits concerning land grants to the railroads and canal builders, defaulted bonds, and failed ventures. The State of Florida was bankrupt. Raney was one of the state's negotiators involved in the 1881 sale of 4,000,000 acres (16,000 km2) of public land to real estate magnate Hamilton Disston to relieve the debt. Raney left office when William D. Bloxham became governor.

On January 13, 1885 Governor Edward A. Perry named Raney to replace Justice James Diament Westcott, Jr.. In 1888, he was elected with Augustus E. Maxwell and Henry L. Mitchell in November.[1] They were the first justices elected by the people under the Constitution of 1885, and he was chosen by lot to serve as Chief Justice. His salary was $3,000 a year.[2] Raney wrote over three hundred opinions. He did not believe judges must consider social change and popular opinion when interpreting the constitution. He had a reputation for thoroughness and citing the court decisions behind his opinions. He resigned from the Bench on May 31, 1894 and returned to private practice. He was succeeded as Chief Justice by Benjamin S. Liddon.[1] In 1899, he returned to the State House representing Leon County.

In private practice, he became a powerful champion of the railroads, representing their interests before the state railroad commission. In 1903 he served as division counsel of the Seaboard Air Line. He had been elected to the Florida Senate by Leon County voters in 1902, and his membership in the Florida Senate while representing the SAL was controversial as possible a conflict of interest. He nevertheless retained both positions. He negotiated an agreement between SAL and the railroad commission in which the railroad improved passenger service in the Tallahassee area.

Raney's first wife had died at the end nineteenth century, and he married Evelyn Bird Cameron on November 13, 1901, the sister of Virginia governor William E. Cameron. His health deteriorated after her death in a fire the following year. On January 8, 1911, he died of pneumonia. His home in Franklin County is a Registered Historic Place. [3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Florida State Bar Association Session, Florida State Bar Association, Florida State Bar Association, Session (1922). Proceedings of the ... Annual Session of the Florida State Bar Association. The Association. 
  2. ^ Ainsworth Rand Spofford, American News Company (1889). An American almanac and treasury of facts, statistical, financial, and .... American News Co. 
  3. ^ Preservation - Office of Cultural & Historical Programs. Online. July 3, 2008.