2018 Message from the President
Edward G. GUEDES
“The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be….” Those opening lyrics from the old American folk song, while perhaps unflattering if taken literally, certainly apply to the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society’s transformation during these past two to three years. Beginning under the leadership of Sylvia Walbolt, who led the effort to analyze the needs of the Society as an ongoing, viable entity and to develop a five-year transition plan, and continuing through the leadership of my predecessor, Kelly O’Keefe, who galvanized the will of our trustees and solidified the committee structure that would implement the plan, the transition is now well under way. Almost a dozen separate committees are now working tirelessly to continue the Society’s mission of preserving the Court’s history and educating Floridians as to the importance of the judiciary in our democracy, while making the Society ever more relevant to younger and more diverse members of the legal profession and the general public at large.
Significantly, the third volume of the Society’s history of the Florida Supreme Court – The Florida Supreme Court – A Journey Towards Justice, 1972-1987 – was made available to the public last summer. Emblematic of the transformative transition the Court, itself, underwent in the early to mid-1970’s, the third volume departs from the approach employed in prior volumes and is written in a fresh, transparent, and thoroughly entertaining journalistic style by author, Neil Skene. The book is available through the Society’s website, as well as numerous retail outlets. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
The Society also now has a fully developed presence in social media through its Facebook page. I invite you all to visit and “Like” our page. The Society’s page hosts important information about its upcoming events, photos from recent Society and Court events (like Justice Perry’s successful and tremendously enjoyable retirement dinner last year), as well as the occasional historical nuggets pulled from the Society’s archives. This accomplishment was due in large part to the efforts of trustees and Communications Committee Co-Chairs, Stephanie Varela and Edith Osman. Stephanie and Edith had the unenviable task of developing policies and procedures for implementing a social media presence while being sensitive to the important and legitimate concerns of the Court regarding the potential for abuses of social media.
Lest anyone think we have abandoned our foothold in matters historical in favor of burying our heads in mobile devices, our esteemed colleague and fellow trustee, Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, graciously donated to the Society the historic desk belonging to his great-uncle, Justice James Bryant Whitfield (1860-1948), who served on the Court for almost 40 years. After considerable consideration of logistics – which ended with several people simply picking up the desk and moving it – the desk has now found its permanent home in the law library of the Florida Supreme Court, where members of the Bar and the general public may admire it.
The past year also saw the investiture of the Court’s 86th and most recent Justice: C. Alan Dawson. A Lakeland, Florida native, later raised in Tallahassee, Justice Lawson served on the Fifth District Court of Appeal for 10 years immediately before being appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by Governor Rick Scott. The investiture was a grand event that began with an impressive procession of robed judges from throughout the state, but not so grand as to overlook the “lavish” gift from Justice Lawson’s former Ninth Judicial Circuit colleagues: 12 pencils personally engraved with his name and new title.
Sadly, the past year has not been without its somber moments. Most recently, the Society and all of Florida mourned the passing of Justice Parker Lee McDonald at the age of 93. Justice McDonald served on the Court from 1979 to 1994, including his tenure as Chief Justice from 1986 to 1988, and was a devoted supporter of the Society and its mission. His beloved wife, Ruth, served as the Society’s treasurer for a great many years before her retirement. Words cannot express the sense of loss experienced by the Society’s trustees and staff, and we continue to extend our love and support to Ruth and the rest of the McDonald family.
With half of my term as president already behind me, I can say that it has been my distinct pleasure and honor to serve this wonderful organization and the Court, while working with some of the most talented colleagues imaginable. Even though much remains to be done in the next few months, I look forward to those challenges knowing full well that the future of the Society looks bright and that its leadership in the coming years is in terrific hands.
Edward G. Guedes
Florida Supreme Court Historical Society