September 17


September 17, 1932, Joseph W. Hatchett, the first African American Supreme Court justice in the South in the 20th century, was born in Clearwater, Florida. Hatchett earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Florida A&M University in 1954. Because the law schools in Florida were segregated, Hatchett attended Howard University Law School where he earned his Bachelor of Laws degree with honors in 1959. From 1960 to 1966, he worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. On September 2, 1975, Hatchett was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court. In 1976, he was reelected to the court, making him the first African American elected to statewide office in Florida. Hatchett resigned from the court in 1979 to accept an appointment to the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, the first African American to be appointed to that court. He remained on that court until 1999 and served as chief justice from 1996 to 1999. He now works in private practice.


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