Advertisement
  1. Books

First openly gay judge on Florida State Court is reading 'The Messenger' and 'The Red and the Black'

Robert W. Lee
Published Jun. 6

Lee, of the Broward County Florida Circuit Court, was the first openly gay person appointed to the Florida State Court bench in 1997. The 58-year-old grew up in Jacksonville and received his law degree from the University of Florida. He has lived in Fort Lauderdale since 1985. Along with a number of awards for his work in law, including the Chief Justice Award for Judicial Excellence, in 2017 Lee received the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Stonewall National Museum and Archives, the largest LGBT circulating library in the United States. In 2000, as chairman of the Broward County Canvassing Board, Lee presided over the historic 2000 presidential election recount in Broward County. On June 12, he will share his view of LGBTQ legal history in Florida at the Gulfport Public Library. The program, "Welcome to Florida: LGBT Attorneys Need Not Apply," will begin at 7 p.m. For information, visit mygulfport.us/lgbtq-resources.

What's on your nightstand?

One I am reading is The Messenger, a book written in the 1960s by Charles Wright. It deals with racism. James Baldwin talked about him, actually. I thought it would be interesting. I also have a two-volume set that is a history of the U.S. It is written for a British audience. It is interesting to get a different perspective of how the world perceives us. And then I have The Red and the Black by Stendhal. I usually don't like to read novels. I'm more academic.

Were there books that provided support as you made your way as an openly gay lawyer and judge?

The truth is, I continue to read. But one writer I think of is Dermot Meagher. He was a gay judge in Massachusetts. He is retired, but he wrote a book about his experiences. I remember thinking how different Massachusetts is from Florida.

You mentioned James Baldwin, a civil rights activist. Who else would you recommend when it comes to civil rights?

Actually, I knew who James Baldwin was, but I don't think I read anything by him until I started volunteering at the Stonewall. We were working on a project on the Harlem Renaissance and the LGBT undertones of that. Giovanni's Room was the first thing I read. I would recommend a book by someone who used to work down here at the Sun-Sentinel, Carlos Harrison's The Ghosts of Hero Street. It is about a community (in Illinois) that sent the largest percentage of Mexican-Americans into World War II and Korea and how they were treated.

All these years later, who do you think covered the 2000 election best?

I think I received every book that was written about it, but I believe it was Jake Tapper's book (Down and Dirty). It was the most accurate by far of what happened. Jake's was a realistic depiction.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Julie Andrews, right, and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, take fans' questions in a Q&A at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Nov. 13. JAY CRIDLIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The stage and screen icon came to Clearwater to discuss her new memoir ‘Home Work’ and a wide range of other topics.
  2. The book cover for Jean Fruth's "Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin." Sports Publishing
    Actor Maulik Pancholy will also talk about his debut novel for kids at Oxford Exchange.
  3. Meg Tilly Penguin Random House
    In her own romance thrillers, she aims for both darkness and light.
  4. Brad, Yadina and Xavier share adventures in "Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum" on PBS. PBS
    The author brings his bestselling biographies for kids to TV with ‘Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum.’
  5. Tom Petty performs in 1999. Author and journalist Bill DeYoung's interviews with the musician appear in "I Need to Know: The Lost Music Interviews." PAUL WARNER  |  AP
    Journalist and author Bill DeYoung gathers some of his favorite interviews in ‘I Need to Know.’
  6. Times illustration Lisa Merklin
    At the 2019 Times Festival of Reading, authors will have stories to tell for everyone.
  7. Author Ellen LaCorte Paul Sirochman
    In the author’s debut thriller, a random meeting between two women changes both their lives.
  8. Julie Andrews will appear in conversation at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Nov. 13. Courtesy of Andrew Eccles
    The 84-year-old Hollywood icon will discuss her new autobiography this week at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
  9. Diane Keaton stars in the 1993 movie "Manhattan Murder Mystery." TriStar Pictures
    In ‘The Big Apple on the Big Screen,’ author Christian Blauvelt writes a cinematic guide to the city.
  10. In 2006, Andra Douglas was a player for the New York Sharks. She later owned the team. Courtesy of James Dockery
    Les Standiford will also visit Oxford Exchange to discuss ‘Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago, and the Rise of America’s Xanadu.’
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement