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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Retired state Supreme Court Justice Ben Overton dies



Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Ben F. Overton, who was instrumental in bringing cameras to the courtroom, died Saturday in Gainesville due to complications from heart surgery.

Justice Overton, 86, a former Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge, retired from the state's highest court in 1999, but continued working as an adjunct professor at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law. His death, announced late Sunday, came as a shock to his family.

Justice Overton had been in good health until just recently, according to his son, Pinellas County Judge William H. Overton. He said his father made sure to finish grading papers for his constitutional law class in time for a triple-bypass surgery Thursday.

Justice Overton celebrated Christmas a day late, as his family joined him in Gainesville on Wednesday to exchange gifts and then be by his side after the surgery — prompted by test results after he experienced shortness of breath recently.

"He was very comfortable about having surgery," William Overton said Sunday. "He expected to be here."

Overton, 59, said his father set an example for his children with his integrity, honesty and work ethic. "Some people earn respect because of their position. Others earn it by the way they act and treat people. He was that type of person," he said.

[Last modified: Monday, December 31, 2012 11:53am]


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