U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio joined the push Wednesday to rename the federal courthouse in Tallahassee.
The proposal would retitle the federal building on Adams Street after Joseph Woodrow Hatchet, a U.S. Army veteran and Florida’s 65th Supreme Court justice.
Appointed by Gov. Reubin Askew in 1975, Hatchett served as the first black Florida Supreme Court justice until 1979. He assumed the role of Justice at 42-years-old.
“As a veteran and the first African-American Supreme Court Justice for the State of Florida, Judge Hatchett was a remarkable public servant with a significant tenure on the bench,” Rubio said. “I am proud to introduce this legislation, which will commemorate his legacy.”
The name change is a bipartisan effort. Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee introduced companion legislation in the House.
In a statement, Scott highlighted Hatchet’s life, legacy and ascent.
Hatchett, a 1954 graduate of Florida A&M University, was commissioned as a second lieutenant and later studied law at Howard University. According to his bio, he graduated in 1959 and began private practice in Daytona Beach.
Hatchet would go on to serve as assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida and United States magistrate for the Middle District of Florida within two decades.
“As the first African-American to sit on the Florida Supreme Court, Judge Hatchett broke barriers that have opened opportunities in the judiciary for countless others,” Scott said. “His long and accomplished legal career is inspiring, and Floridians everywhere are grateful for his contributions to our state and our country.”
Hatchet indeed broke barriers. Beyond the Supreme Court, he was the first Black person to win a statewide contested election during the 20th century in Florida.
President Jimmy Carter later appointed Hatchet as the first Black man to serve in a federal appeals court in the “Deep South,” Rubio’s office said in a news release.
Hatchett retired in 1999 and returned to private practice in Tallahassee. He passed away in April 2021 at the age of 88.