Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL) applauded the Senate’s passage of their bill (S. 2938) to designate the United States Courthouse and Federal Building located at 111 North Adams Street in Tallahassee, Florida, as the “Joseph Woodrow Hatchett United States Courthouse and Federal Building.” Representative Al Lawson (D-FL), along with the bipartisan Florida delegation, introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. S. 2938 now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.
 
“Judge Hatchett lived an inspiring life of service, first as a member of the United States Army and later as the first African-American Supreme Court Justice for the State of Florida,” Rubio said. “His story is worthy of commemoration, and I am pleased to see the Senate pass my legislation to do exactly that.” 
 
“I want to thank my colleagues for unanimously passing my bill with Senator Rubio to honor the life and legacy of Judge Joseph Woodrow Hatchett by affixing his name to the federal courthouse in Tallahassee,” Scott said. “As the first African-American to sit on Florida’s Supreme Court, Judge Hatchett broke barriers that have inspired countless others in the legal profession and we are grateful for his numerous contributions and dedicated service to Florida and our nation.”
 
Background: 
 
According to his biography, “former Justice Joseph Woodrow Hatchett was the 65th Justice on the Supreme Court. He served from 1975-1979.
 
After graduation from Florida A&M University in 1954, Joseph Hatchett was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.  He entered Howard University School of Law in 1956 and earned his LL.B. degree in 1959.
 
After admission to the Florida Bar, he entered private practice in Daytona Beach, practicing criminal, civil, administrative, and civil rights law in state and federal courts. In 1966, he was appointed assistant United States attorney for the Middle District of Florida, and, in 1967, he was designated first assistant United States attorney. In 1971, he was appointed United States magistrate for the Middle District of Florida. In 1975, Governor Reubin Askew appointed Hatchett as the first black Florida Supreme Court justice. 
 
In 1976, in defending his seat on the court, he became the first black person to win a Florida statewide contested election during the twentieth century.  He served until 1979, when he was appointed to the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Jimmy Carter, becoming the first black man appointed to a federal appeals court in the Deep South. He retired in 1999 and returned to private practice in Tallahassee.” Judge Hatchett passed away in April 2021 at the age of 88.