Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. The Buzz on Florida Politics

House votes to name Tallahassee courthouse for Hatchett in do-over

Tampa Bay’s four Republican congressman vote against naming the courthouse for the pioneering Black jurist.
Clearwater's Joseph Woodrow Hatchett, right, was the first black state Supreme Court justice below the Mason-Dixon line. The U.S. House reversed itself in voting by simple majority to name the Tallahassee federal courthouse for him, [Times (1975)]
Clearwater's Joseph Woodrow Hatchett, right, was the first black state Supreme Court justice below the Mason-Dixon line. The U.S. House reversed itself in voting by simple majority to name the Tallahassee federal courthouse for him, [Times (1975)]
Published May 20

The U.S. House reversed itself this week and passed a bill to name a Tallahassee federal courthouse after pioneering Black Florida jurist Joseph Hatchett, following a procedural switch so the measure required only a majority vote rather than two-thirds.

But all four Republican congressmen representing the Tampa Bay area voted no Wednesday, including one, Rep. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, who previously voted in favor.

Reps. Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key, Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor and Scott Franklin of Lakeland all voted against the measure for a second time.

Eight other Florida Republicans also voted no; all 11 Florida Democrats and three Republicans voted yes.

On the House floor, Webster said he changed his vote even though, “It hurts me,” because he objected to the procedural change. He said naming bills should always require supermajority votes.

The bill was to honor the late judge, born in 1932, who grew up in a working-class Clearwater family, became the first Black federal judge in the deep South and then, in 1975, Florida’s first Black Supreme Court justice.

The House voted the measure down March 30.

House Republicans who had previously supported it abruptly changed their positions during that vote when a Georgia Republican, Rep. Andrew Clyde, circulated a news clipping about Hatchett on the House floor, according to news accounts and the bill sponsor, Rep. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee.

The 1999 story concerned a federal appeals court decision Hatchett wrote against prayer at a Duval County public high school graduation. The decision cited and followed a previous U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

On Wednesday, the renaming bill passed 230-190.

One Florida Republican, Neal Dunn of Panama City, switched his vote from no to yes. The recent redistricting made Dunn’s strongly Republican-leaning Congressional District 2 somewhat more Democratic, including adding minority areas of Tallahassee, where his vote drew criticism, and Gadsden County.

Following the March vote, Bilirakis and Buchanan cited the school prayer decision as their reason for voting against the measure; Franklin didn’t respond to calls and a list of questions emailed to his press spokesman.

The measure now goes to the Senate where it is sponsored by Florida’s Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge