OBITUARY

Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Joseph Woodrow Hatchett

September 17, 1932April 30, 2021
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Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Joseph Woodrow Hatchett died in Tallahassee on Friday, April 30, 2021. Hatchett was 88 and Florida's 65th Justice since statehood was granted in 1845.

Hatchett became the first African American to serve on Florida's highest court when he was appointed by Governor Reubin Askew in 1975. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter named him to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, becoming the first African American to serve in a federal circuit that covered the Deep South at the time.

Born during the days of segregation, Hatchett grew up in Clearwater, Florida and attended Pinellas High School. He took the Florida Bar Exam in 1959 at a time when black examinees could not stay in the hotel where the test was administered because of Jim Crow regulations still in effect. After graduation from Florida A&M University in 1954, Hatchett was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He entered Howard University School of Law in 1956 and earned his LLB. degree in 1959.

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.

In 1976, in defending his seat on the Florida Supreme Court, Hatchett became the only African American to win a Florida statewide contested election during the twentieth century. It was the last contested election for the Florida Supreme Court before constitutional reforms moved state appeals judges to an uncontested merit selection system.

Hatchett retired in 1999 and returned to private practice in Tallahassee with the Akerman firm.

Hatchett was preceded in death by his mother, Lula G. Hatchett, father, John Hatchett, eight brothers, one sister, and wife, Betty L. Hatchett. He is survived by his longtime companion Delores Grayson, children Cheryl Clark (Edward Clark II) and Brenda Hatchett, grandchildren Roscoe Green (Maiselyn Green), Rashad Green (Meagan Green), Joel Davis, Lauryn Davis, Marcus Clark (Wren Clark), James Davis, Edward Clark III, Sharilyn Metellus (Fritz Metellus), and great-grandchildren Jordyn Jean, Jackson Woodrow Green, Hampton Leeander Green, Jade Metellus, Poppy Clark, Jaden Clark, Edward Clark IV, Heiress Clark, and Mirelyz Green, and a host of nieces, nephews, godchildren, former law clerks and friends. Hatchett will Lie in State at the Florida Supreme Court on Friday, May 7, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. ¬1 :00 p.m. The Florida Supreme Court is located at 500 South Duval Street in Tallahassee, Florida. Funeral Services will be held at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday, May 8, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. Bethel Missionary Baptist Church is located at 224 North Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Tallahassee, Florida.

Those unable to attend the service may join via livestream at: https://livestream.com/betheltally/homegoingservices .

Services Entrusted to Culley's MeadowWood Funeral Homes & MeadowWood Memorial Park, Tallahassee, Florida

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Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Joseph Woodrow Hatchett

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Commissioner Voloria Manning

May 8, 2021

I'm grateful to Justice Joseph Hatchett for servicing We the People of the State of Florida with Goodness and Mercy. My Condolences to the Family and Friends and May the Peace of God be with you 🙏🏼

Charlie Schuette

May 5, 2021

As the Chairman and CEO of Akerman at the time Judge Hatchett decided to leave the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, I had the good fortune to meet with him in his Chambers in Miami. We hit it off and talked for over 2 hours. Soon thereafter, Judge Hatchett accepted our offer and joined Akerman as Chair of our Appellate practice. His contribution to the firm was immediate and notable. He trained our litigation partners and associates in the intricacies of the appellate practice. He was the team leader in presentations to potential clients. Judge Hatchett, his long time close friend Delores Grayson, my wife and me became good friends and continued to stay in touch after we both left Akerman.
Rest in Peace my friend Joe. Thank you for your contribution to the community and our profession.
We will miss you.
Charlie Schuette

Judy Miller

May 5, 2021

My deepest sympathies to the family and Delores. He was a man of the highest integrity and character and one I had the utmost respect for. He impacted many lives, forging paths that opened doors for those following in his footsteps. His legacy runs deep and will live forever. My 22+ years working with Judge Hatchett provide some of my most cherished memories and without doubt, he greatly impacted my life. May your precious memories of this great man provide strength and comfort in your time of sorrow.

Andrew Doyle

May 5, 2021

Dear Delores and family of Judge/Justice Hatchett,

Please accept my condolences on your loss. Judge Hatchett lived by example, and the impact he made reaches far and wide. I learned so much from him, both during and after clerking in his chambers (97-98). Although his humble nature never allowed him to wear it on his sleeve, his brilliance was always present. And he was always willing to share his hard-earned, trailblazing wisdom. I send along a photo from the Florida Bar annual convention in 2015. I enjoyed catching up with him and Delores there, often joining them at the judicial luncheon.

Christopher Carver

May 4, 2021

Judge Hatchett was a great man, in every sense of the word. I had the pleasure of working with and for him on several matters in depth while he was at Akerman, in addition to countless calls to discuss a variety of issues on many others. He always had time, he always was gracious, and he always was incisive in his analysis. Some of my fondest work memories are from wide-ranging discussions during time spent together after working on cases. His stories were invariably enlightening and, all too frequently, a sad commentary on America. To this day, I tell people about some of my experiences working with and for him.

Through his long career, Judge Hatchett made the country better, and we are all better off for it. I will miss his presence, and I am very, very happy I had the opportunity to get to know him.

BJ Morton

May 4, 2021

I had the pleasure and honor of working at the Akerman law firm with Judge Hatchett. He was an extremely pleasant man and always had a smile. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

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