Joseph Hatchett, the first Black justice on the Florida Supreme Court, died Friday, April 30, at age 88.
BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
TALLAHASSEE — Joseph Hatchett, the first Black justice on the Florida Supreme Court, died Friday, April 30, at age 88, Florida Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters announced on Saturday. The Lying in State will be broadcast live in its entirety on the Florida Supreme Court’s YouTube and Facebook pages and from its website.
Born in Clearwater on Sept. 17, 1932, he graduated from Florida A&M University in 1954 after attending the all-Black Pinellas High School. After serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he entered Howard University, earning his law degree and bar admission in 1959.
Because of Jim Crow practices, while taking the Florida Bar Exam in Miami, he could not stay in the hotel where the test was given.
Once admitted to the Florida Bar, he went into private practice in Daytona Beach. Hatchett practiced civil, administrative, criminal, and civil rights law.
Appointed assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida in 1966, the next year he was named the first assistant United States attorney. In 1971, Hatchett was appointed United States magistrate for the Middle District of Florida, and in 1976 became the first Black person to win a Florida statewide contested election in the 20th-century.
In 1979, former President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Twenty years later, Hatchett retired and returned to private practice in Tallahassee.
Hatchett received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society on Jan. 28, 2020. At the virtual ceremony, Hatchett said, “Honesty and truth are the hallmarks of good lawyers and good judges.”
Preceded in death by his wife Betty Hatchett, he is survived by his longtime partner Delores Grayson; his children Cheryl Clark (Edward Clark II) and Brenda Hatchett; eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Funeral services for Hatchett will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 8, at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee. He will be interred on Monday, May 10, in Dunedin, Florida.
Further details will be posted on the Florida Supreme Court website when they become available at www.floridasupremecourt.org.