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Retired judge known as 'Fast Freddy' dies at 72

Retired Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Judge Fred L. Bryson has died at his home in the mountains of South Carolina. He was 72.

Judge Bryson, who stepped down from the bench in 1997 after 18 years, died Thursday (Nov. 30, 2006) at his farm in Pickens County. He had battled esophageal cancer since 2003, a daughter, Susan Bryson, said Friday.

His career on the bench included presiding over a broad range of cases from complex civil litigation to criminal trials and probate.

Nicknamed "Fast Freddy," he was known for moving cases through his docket efficiently and fairly, his daughter said.

"I'm just going to do something different," the judge said in 1995 in announcing his retirement. He spoke of teaching or going into business.

Instead, he tended to three horses and ran an operation at his farm rescuing dogs, his daughter said.

He also continued to try cases in Florida as a senior judge and worked as a certified arbitrator.

He was perhaps best known for the "Pinellas pipeline" case, in which he ordered an engineering firm and a builder to pay the county $28-million for a faulty pipeline.

An appellate court overturned the verdict, saying Judge Bryson had shown bias. But the county won a similar verdict in a later jury trial.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission sought to discipline the judge because of so-called wakeup calls he received during the pipeline case from Charles Rainey, then a county commissioner.

Both men denied discussing the case, and the JQC eventually dropped the charge.

On Friday, Rainey recalled him as "an outstanding, hardworking judge. He was a no-nonsense judge. When you left the courtroom you knew where you stood."

Survivors include his wife of 26 years, Jean; a son, James, of St. Petersburg; a daughter, Susan Bryson, of Lexington, Ky.; a stepdaughter, Catherine Gay, of Atlanta; a sister, Patricia Phillips, of Liberty, S.C.; and four grandchildren, Julie Ann, Evan, Grace and Bryce.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Pickens Presbyterian Church. The family suggests memorial contributions be made to Hospice of the Upstate (864-224-3398) or the American Cancer Society.

Dillard Memorial Funeral Home, Pickens, is in charge.

Some information in this obituary came from Times files.