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Former Bar President Emmanuel celebrates 100th birthday

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Pensacola honors him for his service in WWII

Patrick G. Emmanuel“The main thing is you have to be honest. You have to be truthful, in what you do, in what you say, and how you act.”

It would be an understatement to call that the voice of experience, because it comes from Patrick G. Emmanuel, the 1985-86 president of The Florida Bar, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

On that day, January 25, the city of Pensacola honored Emmanuel, a World War II combat veteran, at Veterans Memorial Park.

Emmanuel, in an interview, remembered how the war interrupted his legal education. He completed his bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of Florida in 1940, at the same time finishing his first year of law school while also participating in ROTC.

After another year in law school, he was called to active service in August 1941 and was eventually commissioned a second lieutenant.

Four years later, including service in Europe from late July 1944 until the end of the war, then-Major Emmanuel returned to Gainesville on a 90-day leave and enrolled for his last year in law school. When he was discharged at the end of the leave, he was able to start school with the rest of the class and graduate on time in 1946.

He returned to his native Pensacola and joined the law firm, Holsberry and Holsberry. A year later, he became a partner and his name was added to the firm, which is now known as Emmanuel, Sheppard and Condon. (The firm is celebrating its 107th anniversary this year.)

“Mr. Emmanuel was and is a lawyer’s lawyer. His clients, some of whom he represented for over 50 years, would not make any decision until they ‘ran it past Pat,’” said Alan Bookman, a partner in the firm, and like Emmanuel, a former Bar president. “I could not have had a better mentor, not only in the practice of law but also in life. Pat, by his actions and not his words, showed me and many young lawyers how to properly represent a client ethically and professionally and how to treat other lawyers, litigants, and the court with dignity. To Pat, the law is a noble profession and should not be viewed as a job.”

Bookman added, “Sometimes I did not know how Pat had the time to practice as lawyers in our office and other offices constantly would ask Pat for advice on how to handle a particular matter.”

In addition to his busy practice, Emmanuel was elected to the Board of Governors in 1968, and served until 1974. When the First Circuit seat came open in 1982, his fellow lawyers urged him to run again and then for Bar president-elect in 1984. He won a three-way race in a runoff, and became Bar president in June 1985 — right after the Board of Governors voted to ask the Supreme Court to establish the Bar’s initial required continuing legal education requirement.

Emmanuel opposed the mandatory requirement, but saw his job as president to implement the program and provide quality programs at low or no cost to lawyers to enable them to comply with the requirement.

He also streamlined board meetings and began the practice of having the president preside over the entire meeting, rather than have Board of Governors committee chairs control discussion and debate during their reports. Emmanuel’s goal was to use the saved time to allow more participation and debate on important issues.

“The Board of Governors is a great group of lawyers, they achieve a lot of good work,” Emmanuel said.

Aside from his practice and Bar service, Emmanuel served on the board of the Northwest Florida Crippled Children’s Home and for 30 years, including 10 as chair, on the board of the Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. Among his many professional related activities, Emmanuel served on the board and was president of The Florida Bar Foundation and on the federal Judicial Nominating Commission from 1974 to 1981.

Among many honors, in 2002 the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce gave Emmanuel its Spirit of Pensacola Award, and he has also been honored by the Combined Rotary Clubs of Pensacola and the University of West Florida College of Business

Like his professional activities, Emmanuel’s military service was beyond the expected.

He served in the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion, which was mostly attached to the 28th Infantry Division, although it sometimes worked with other divisions. He landed in Normandy on July 24, 1944, the day before the allies launched Operation Cobra, which broke out of the Normandy beachhead and hurled the German forces back across France. The division and attached battalion saw their first action on July 28 and participated in the routing of the German army.

From there, the 28th and 630th suffered heavy casualties in the Hurtgen Forest battle and was sent to a quiet area to recoup and absorb replacements. It was the Ardennes Forest and on December 16 the spread-out division (because it was thought to be a quiet area, U.S. forces manned an extended front and the 28th was stretched the most) was attacked by four German divisions, including one panzer unit, at the start of the Battle of the Bulge.

Outgunned, badly outnumbered, and frequently out of communications, the division and battalion fought a bloody but effective delaying action that completely disrupted the German plans for a rapid advance and capture of Bastogne, allowing the 101st Airborne to win the race for that vital road junction.

The cost was high. In “A Time for Trumpets,” a detailed account of the Battle of the Bulge, military historian Charles B. MacDonald listed the 28th Division’s heavy losses in the first two days, including, “the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion lost most of its men and all but six of its towed guns” (a full-strength battalion would have 36). Emmanuel was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during the battle.

“These were the days that tried men’s endurance and units’ fighting stamina,” Emmanuel wrote in a 10-page summary of the battalion’s WWII experiences. “The 630th never faltered in either respect. Clerks, cooks, rear echelon personnel — all were given new jobs calling for guts and ability.”

(Emmanuel’s account can be found here: www.tankdestroyer.net/images/stories/ArticlePDFs/630th_Unit_History-10_pages.pdf.)

The 630th went on to fight in the Colmar Pocket and then in late March and early April in the Ruhr Pocket, which resulted in the capture of more than 300,000 German prisoners. In the final days of that action, Emmanuel recorded that the battalion “destroyed 6 enemy tanks, two 88 mm SP [self-propelled] guns, various other vehicles and equipment and captured approximately 1,674 prisoners.”

Emmanuel became acting battalion commander just days before the war ended and continued in that post until the end of 1945.

Emmanuel spends his days in his beloved Pensacola with his wife of 72 years, Olivia, and keeping track of their seven children, 12 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren “with one on the way.”

“I’m just taking it easy, my health is very good. I go out and eat once or twice a week,” he said.

Asked for any additional thoughts, Emmanuel is prompt: “I believe lawyers need to be honest and truthful. That’s the main thing.”

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