James B. Whitfield

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James B. Whitfield
JamesBryanWhitfield.jpg
Justice of the Supreme Court of Florida
In office
February 15, 1904 – January 4, 1943
Appointed byWilliam Sherman Jennings
Preceded byEvelyn C. Maxwell
Succeeded byHarold L. Sebring
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Florida
In office
January 8, 1935 – January 1937
Preceded byFred H. Davis
Succeeded byW. H. Ellis
In office
January 6, 1909 – January 1913
Preceded byThomas M. Shackleford
Succeeded byThomas M. Shackleford
In office
January 10, 1905 – June 12, 1905
Preceded byR. Fenwick Taylor
Succeeded byThomas M. Shackleford
17th Florida Attorney General
In office
March 4, 1903 – February 15, 1904
GovernorWilliam Sherman Jennings
Preceded byWilliam Bailey Lamar
Succeeded byW. H. Ellis
12th Florida State Treasurer
In office
June 19, 1897 – March 4, 1903
GovernorWilliam D. Bloxham
William Sherman Jennings
Preceded byClarence B. Collins
Succeeded byWilliam V. Knott
14th Clerk of the Florida Supreme Court
In office
1889 – June 19, 1897
Preceded byDavid C. Wilson
Succeeded byBartow B. Wilson
Personal details
Born(1860-11-08)November 8, 1860
Wayne County, North Carolina
DiedAugust 20, 1948(1948-08-20) (aged 87)
Tallahassee, Florida
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Leila Nash
(m. 1886; died 1897)

Margaret Howard Randolph (m. 1901)
Children3
EducationWest Florida Seminary
University of Virginia (LL.B)
OccupationAttorney

James Bryan Whitfield (November 8, 1860 – August 20, 1948) was an American attorney and politician who served as a long-time Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Whitfield was born on November 8, 1860 on his father's plantation in Wayne County, North Carolina. He was a member of the Whitfield family, a prominent planter family in the American South. In 1863, Whitfield and his father moved to their plantation in Leon County, Florida.[2]

Whitfield later moved to the nearby city of Tallahassee, Florida, where he studied law at the West Florida Seminary, later attending the University of Virginia receiving his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1886. He was admitted into the Florida Bar later that year.[1]

Political career[edit]

In 1888, Whitfield, a bank teller at the time, became the personal secretary of Florida Governor Edward A. Perry. The following year, he was appointed Clerk of the Florida Supreme Court.[3] Whitfield, a Democrat, served in this position until June 19, 1897, when he was appointed Florida State Treasurer, succeeding Clarence B. Collins, who had resigned following his impeachment in the Florida House of Representatives for mismanaging state funds.[4][5]

Whitfield served as State Treasurer until March of 1903, when he was appointed Florida Attorney General following the election of the incumbent, William Bailey Lamar, to the U.S. House of Representatives.[6][7]

Florida Supreme Court[edit]

In February of 1904, Whitfield was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by Governor William Sherman Jennings. Whitfield served on the court until his retirement on January 4, 1943, making him the second-longest serving Florida Supreme Court justice, only behind William Glenn Terrell.[1][8] Additionally, Whitfield was elected Chief Justice by the court three times, serving in that role from January of 1905 until June of 1905, 1909 until 1913, and 1935 until 1937.[9]

Whitfield's tenure on the court was marked by a period of great uncertainty regarding the rights of African Americans in Florida. Whitfield himself did not have an opinion on the topic as a whole, rather regarding it on a case-by-case basis, often times leading to conflicting opinions. For example, Whitfield wrote the majority opinion for Montgomery v. State (1908), in which he wrote that it is unlawful to exclude black jurors from trials.[1] On the other hand, however, he reaffirmed racial segregation in Florida East Coast Ry. Co. v. Geiger (1913), which upheld separate but equal, and Parramore v. State (1921), which upheld a ban on mixed-race marriages.[10]

Whitfield retired from the court on January 4, 1943, due to declining health.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Whitfield married Leila Nash on November 25, 1886. Nash died from complications following the birth of their first child, John Nash, in 1897.[11] Whitfield later married Margaret Howard Rudolph on June 12, 1901. They had two children together, Rudolph and Mary Croom.[12]

Death and Legacy[edit]

Whitfield died on August 20, 1948 at his home in Tallahassee, Florida. He is buried in Tallahassee's Saint Johns Episcopal Church Cemetery.[12]

In 1945, Whitfield received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Florida. The University of Florida also has a scholarship in his memory, the Judge James Bryan Whitfield Constitutional Law Scholarship.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Justice James Bryan Whitfield". Supreme Court. Retrieved 2019-04-06.
  2. ^ a b "History of Pasco County Florida, by J. A. Hendley". www.fivay.org. Retrieved 2019-04-06.
  3. ^ "The Clerks of the Florida Supreme Court" (PDF). Florida State University. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  4. ^ Florida, State Library and Archives of. "Florida Governors". Florida Memory. Retrieved 2019-04-06.
  5. ^ Karl, Frederick (Winter 1978). "Impeachment in Florida". Florida State University Law Review. 6: 20–22.
  6. ^ Florida, State Library and Archives of. "Florida Governors". Florida Memory. Retrieved 2019-04-06.
  7. ^ "Florida Attorney General - Florida Attorneys General (1845 - )". myfloridalegal.com. Retrieved 2019-04-06.
  8. ^ "Justice William Glenn Terrell". Supreme Court. Retrieved 2019-04-06.
  9. ^ "Chief Justices List". Supreme Court. Retrieved 2019-04-06.
  10. ^ Walbolt, Sylvia. "From Chattel to Justice" (PDF). Florida Court History. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  11. ^ "Leila Nash Whitfield". Find a Grave. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  12. ^ a b "James Bryan Whitfield". Find a Grave. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  13. ^ "Judge James Bryan Whitfield Constitutional Law Scholarship". University of Florida Advancement. Retrieved 2019-04-06.

External links[edit]