The question was, according to President-elect designate Hank Coxe, how do 76,000 members of The Florida Bar “honor one of the greatest it’s produced?”
Coxe headed a special committee appointed by Bar President Kelly Overstreet Johnson to find a way to honor board member Henry Latimer, who was killed in a car accident in January.
Latimer, widely regarded as one of the state’s best lawyers and a tireless worker for pro bono and mentoring young lawyers, was widely expected to file papers this year to follow Coxe as Bar president. If successful, he would have become the Bar’s first African American president.
Coxe and public board member Solomon Badger, a friend of Latimer’s since childhood, presented the panel’s recommendation at the board’s April 8 meeting: Name the Bar’s Center for Professionalism after Latimer.
Coxe, noting a wide range of lawyers from Supreme Court justices to colleagues in Miami had been consulted, said Badger initially had some valuable advice: “Slow down and let the healing process start.”
Suggestions ranged from scholarships to naming The Florida Bar after Latimer, but the committee and other interested lawyers agreed that retitling the center as the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism was the best tribute. Coxe said more may be forthcoming, especially in regard to scholarships.
Badger said he talked with Latimer’s family and his wife and two daughters have been overpowered by the outpouring of honors and adulation for Latimer. “They are so appreciative of all that has been done,” he said. “I would hope we would continue to remember Henry Latimer.”
Coxe noted that The Florida Bar Foundation and the American College of Trial Lawyers were planning a joint dinner to honor Latimer during the Bar’s Annual Meeting in June.
The board unanimously passed the resolution renaming the center and honoring Latimer (see the full text following this story) and Bar President Kelly Overstreet Johnson praised the special committee’s efforts.
“This was a difficult time and a difficult mission to include all of the people who wanted to be included and to get a consensus,” she said. “It was a diverse group and everyone on the committee felt very passionately about Henry.
“Everyone at the end of the conference call agreed this was the suitable way to recognize him.”
Resolution of The Florida Bar Board of Governors Honoring Henry Latimer
Whereas, The Florida Bar lost an admired, respected and beloved lawyer on January 24, 2005 when Henry Latimer died at age 67; and
Whereas, Henry Latimer embodied the true lawyer’s trilogy of service to family, community and profession; and
Whereas, Henry Latimer was born on January 22, 1938 and grew up in Jacksonville’s projects, an underprivileged student of segregated schools; and
Whereas, Henry Latimer excelled in his academic pursuits, receiving his Bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University, his Master’s from Florida Atlantic University and his Law degree from the University of Miami School of Law, where he was among the first African-Americans to obtain his law degree; and
Whereas, Henry Latimer served his country with distinction and honor in the United States Marine Corps; and
Whereas, Henry Latimer served as one of the first African-American judges in Florida; and
Whereas, Henry Latimer’s thirty-year career as a lawyer and judge was exemplified by passion, excellence, wisdom and diplomacy; and
Whereas, Henry Latimer served on the Florida Bar Board of Governors and received numerous awards and designations of distinction, including being listed in The Best Lawyers in America and receiving the Lawyers in Leadership Award from the University of Miami School of Law’s Center for Ethics and Public Service; and
Whereas, Henry Latimer was a well-respected and beloved Adjunct Professor of Law at Florida International University’s College of Law; and
Whereas, Henry Latimer’s pursuit of legal excellence was paralleled by his devotion to equal opportunities for all, pro bono work, and assistance to those less fortunate; and
Whereas, Henry Latimer served as a mentor to thousands, instilling in them his passion for excellence, equality, respect and professionalism; and
Whereas, Henry Latimer symbolized all things good about our profession, as a husband, father, attorney, leader, teacher, advisor and friend.
Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar mourns the death of Henry Latimer, and applauds and acknowledges the unfailing professionalism, integrity, compassion and accomplishments of Henry Latimer through his life of extraordinary contributions of advocacy, leadership, citizenship and public service to the legal profession, his community, the State of Florida and the United States of America.
Be it further resolved, that, in honor of Henry Latimer, the Florida Bar Center for Professionalism will hereinafter be named the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism, and a copy of this Resolution shall be published to the members of the profession and the citizens of the State of Florida.