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First Black Florida Supreme Court Justice Joseph Woodrow Hatchett dead at 88

Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Joseph Woodrow Hatchett, the first Black Supreme Court...
Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Joseph Woodrow Hatchett, the first Black Supreme Court Justice in the state, has died at the age of 88.
Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 5:57 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Joseph Woodrow Hatchett, the first Black Supreme Court Justice in the state, has died at the age of 88.

“With heavy hearts, our family announces the passing of our beloved father, grandfather, and great grandfather, Joseph Woodrow Hatchett, 88, who joined his eternal father in heaven on Friday, April 30, 2021,” Hatchett’s family said in a statement to WCTV. “The family is asking the public for privacy during this difficult time. An announcement detailing arrangements will follow in the coming days.”

Hatchett, a 1954 graduate of Florida A&M University, was the 65th justice on the Supreme Court and served from 1975-1979. In 1976, in defending his seat on the Florida Supreme Court, Hatchett also became the first African American to win a Florida statewide contested election in 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 election system.

After his time on the court, Judge Hatchett made history again, when he was named 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.

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, according to the Florida Supreme Court. Hatchett retired in 1999 and returned to private practice in Tallahassee with the Akerman firm.

Hatchett was preceded in death by his wife Betty Hatchett. He is survived by his longtime friend and partner, Delores Grayson; his children Cheryl Clark (Edward Clark II) and Brenda Hatchett; his grandchildren Roscoe Green (Maiselyn Green), Rashad Green (Meagan Green), Joel Davis, Edward Clark III, Sharilyn Metellus (Fritz Metellus), Lauryn Davis, Marcus Clark (Wren Clark), and James Davis; and great-grandchildren Mirelyz Green, Jordyn Jean, Jaden Clark, Edward Clark IV, Heiress Clark, Jackson Woodrow Green, Jade Metellus, Hampton Leeander Green, and Poppy Clark.

Services are pending.

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