1st Black Florida Supreme Court Justice dies at 88


Florida State Archives

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The first Black man to serve on the Florida Supreme court has died.

The court announced Saturday that Joseph W. Hatchett died in Tallahassee. He was 88. No cause of death was given.

Hatchett was the first African American on the state high court when he was appointed by then Gov. Reubin Askew in 1975.

In 1979, then-President Jimmy Carter named Hatchett to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hatchett grew up in Clearwater and attended Pinellas High School. He graduated from Florida A&M University in 1954, then earned his law degree in 1959 from the Howard University School of Law.

After admission to the Florida Bar in November 1959, Hatchett entered private practice in Daytona Beach, practicing criminal, civil, administrative, and civil rights law in state and federal courts.

In 1966, Hatchett was appointed assistant United States attorney for the Middle District of Florida, and, in 1967, he was designated first assistant United States attorney. In 1971, he was appointed United States magistrate for the Middle District of Florida.

He is survived by his two children, Cheryl Clark and Brenda Hatchett, and his eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

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