Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

Parker Lee McDonald served 15 years on Florida's Supreme Court until retirement.
Parker Lee McDonald served 15 years on Florida's Supreme Court until retirement.
Published June 25 2017
Updated June 26 2017

TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

Court spokesman Craig Waters announced that Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday at his home in Tallahassee. He was 93.

Mr. McDonald, who was born in Sebring, was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1979 by then-Gov. Bob Graham. Mr. McDonald served 15 years on the court and retired from the court after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

He wrote the decision regarding the race of jurors in 1984.

He was nicknamed the "Whistling Justice" because a security guard stopped him on his first day and told him no whistling was allowed in the court building. Mr. McDonald told the guard he could do what he wanted since he was a justice.

"Justice McDonald was a major influence in shaping the future of the Court after the sweeping reforms of the 1970s," current Chief Justice Jorge Labarga said in a statement issued by the Florida Supreme Court. "He and the group of Justices placed on the Court during that era helped transform it into the respected tribunal it is today."

In the mid to late 1970s, Mr. McDonald was one of several newly appointed justices who elevated the reputation of the court after it earlier had become involved in scandal. He was well known for his ground-breaking opinions restricting the ability of prosecutors to remove jurors from a case solely because of their race — a view later adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2000 when the presidential election controversy of Bush vs. Gore swirled through Tallahassee, Mr. McDonald steadfastly refused scores of media requests that he comment on legal cases embroiling the Florida Supreme Court. He told those who asked that retired justices should simply remain silent about controversies that came after their time.

Mr. McDonald attended the University of Florida and later received his law degree in 1950 after service in the U.S. Army interrupted his studies. He later went into private practice in Orlando with a firm that eventually became Gurney McDonald & Handley.

Mr. McDonald was appointed to the 9th Judicial Circuit bench in 1961 and served there until his appointment to the Florida Supreme Court in 1979.

Services are pending with Bevis Funeral Home in Tallahassee.

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