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Former Florida Chief Justice Stephen Grimes, 1927-2021

In Memoriam

Grimes will lie in state in the rotunda of the Florida Supreme Court on September 15

Chief Justice Stephen Grimes

Chief Justice Stephen Grimes

Former Florida Justice Stephen H. Grimes, 93, died Friday in Tallahassee. He was the 72nd justice on the Florida Supreme Court since Florida received statehood in 1845.

Grimes served on the state’s highest court from 1987 to 1997. He led the state courts system as its chief justice from 1994 to 1996 during a period of great transition caused partly by the advent of the Internet.

In late 1994, Grimes authorized placement of a website for the Florida Supreme Court on the fledgling World-Wide Web, becoming one of the first courts in the world with an official web presence.

The first Florida Supreme Court website was a small collection of just over a dozen informational pages. But it soon expanded to provide public documents like court opinions at the same moment as their official release – a novelty at the time.

His tenure as chief justice also marked the start of long-term planning for the judicial branch, as mandated by a 1992 amendment to the state constitution. That planning process continues to this day.

Grimes came to the Florida Supreme Court after a lengthy career as a lawyer with the Holland & Knight firm in Bartow and then as a judge on the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland starting in 1973.

When Grimes became chief justice in 1994, he told The Florida Bar Journal he loved the law.

“We ought to be proud of being lawyers and we ought to do everything we can to uphold the profession. Maybe people don’t appreciate us enough, but maybe that comes with the territory, because lawyers have never been loved,” Grimes said. “People are always going to blame lawyers, but we ought to have the satisfaction of knowing we are doing something worthwhile, and we ought to hold our heads up high and strive to uphold the integrity of the profession and the judicial system.”

He was a native of Peoria, Illinois, the son of Henry H. and June K. Grimes. He received his college education at the University of Florida where he was awarded his undergraduate degree in 1950 and his law degree in 1954.

Grimes married his wife Fay Fulghum of Lakeland while still in college. Together they had four daughters Gay, Mary June, Sue, and Sheri.

Grimes was appointed to the Second DCA in October 1973. He served as chief judge there from 1978-80.

In early 1987, Governor Bob Martinez appointed Grimes to the Supreme Court. When he retired in November 1997, Grimes returned to work at Holland & Knight.

Grimes will lie in state in the rotunda of the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday, September 15, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is open to all who want to pay their respects. A Florida Highway Patrol honor guard will carry the casket into the court and place it behind the official seal embedded in the floor of the rotunda. At that point, current Chief Justice Charles Canady will deliver a brief eulogy as he and other members of the court gather to honor their predecessor.

After the Lying in State, a funeral service will follow at 2:30 p.m. at St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral in Tallahassee, with a reception afterwards at the church. Arrangements are by Bevis Funeral Home in Tallahassee.

A live broadcast feed of the Lying in State will be available on the court’s website and its Facebook and YouTube pages.

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