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Judge Peter J.T. Taylor | 1926-2010

Judge Peter J.T. Taylor dies at 83

GOLFVIEW — By the time he met the girl who would become his wife, Peter Taylor already knew what he wanted to do with his life.

"He wanted to be a lawyer," his wife, Jane Taylor, said. "He had his mind set on that already."

He was only about 12 years old at the time.

His wife wasn't exactly sure how he chose the legal profession. Still, through his long career, he never lost his passion for the law.

"He loved the knowledge of it and the wisdom of it, and the justice that it stood for," she said. "Every night, he'd work preparing for the next day. His hobby was working. It was what he loved to do."

His devotion to the law and to his work helped him become one of Tampa's most successful lawyers. He spent the last 13 years of his career as a circuit judge in the 13th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Taylor died July 3 of heart failure. He was 83.

His parents were British but lived in America before he was born. His mother went back to England to give birth to him, then returned here to join her husband. They moved to South Tampa shortly afterward, and except for stints in school and the military, he lived there the rest of his life.

He was a student at Wilson Junior High School when he met his wife-to-be. They spent a lot of time together through middle school and dated occasionally for their first few years at Plant High School.

"I had my eye on Peter," his wife said. "I think he had his eye on sports."

By senior year, they had become a serious couple, and they stayed together from then on.

Judge Taylor was drafted near the end of World War II. He never saw action. But after the war, he was assigned to Korea as part of the American occupation.

He finished college after his military service ended. He married in 1950 and commuted to Stetson law school in Gulfport.

He worked for a local Tampa firm, then for the state attorney's office. Before long, he and three colleagues left to start their own practice.

"They had a plan that one would drop out and start the practice, and then once that got going another one would drop out and join," Jane Taylor said.

By the time the fourth lawyer left his state job, the firm, which was finally called Goldberg, Putney, Taylor and Hampton, was thriving.

Gov. Bob Graham appointed Judge Taylor to the Circuit Court in 1983. He ran unopposed for election the next year but had to campaign in 1990, when he won re-election by a wide margin. He retired from the bench in 1996.

Although he was exceptionally studious and hard-working, he was also devoted to his family. When he wasn't busy with the law, he was usually spending time with his wife and two daughters.

"He was serious and diligent about things that needed to be taken seriously," said his daughter, Carole Kirkwood. "But when he was done with work, he believed that you had earned the right to relax and have a nice vacation. He taught his daughters to do their very best at everything we did, but he also wanted us to enjoy our lives. He appreciated that life was about balance."

Besides his wife and Kirkwood, Judge Taylor is survived by his daughter Linda Schnitzlein, his sister Sarah Jane Taylor and six grandchildren.

Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

Judge Peter J.T. Taylor dies at 83 07/15/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 2:13pm]
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