From political and legal trailblazers to longtime education and corrections leaders, here are 10 people who died in 2021 after leaving marks on Florida politics, government and the courts:
— ANNE CAWTHON BOOTH: When Gov. Reubin Askew appointed Anne Cawthon Booth to the 1st District Court of Appeal in 1978, she became the state’s first woman appellate judge, according to the Tallahassee-based court. Booth, who died in June at age 87, served until 2005, including a stint from 1985 to 1987 as the first woman to preside as a chief judge of an appellate court.
— ROBERTO CASAS: Born in Cuba in 1931, Roberto Casas was elected to the Florida House in 1982 and the Senate in 1988. Casas, a Republican who died this month at age 90, served in the Senate until 2000. Miami-Dade County GOP Chairman Rene Garcia said Casas was “someone who opened doors for Cubans and the children of exiles to run for office and make a difference in their communities.”
— STEPHEN GRIMES: After former Florida Supreme Court Justice Stephen Grimes died at age 93 in September, current Chief Justice Charles Canady described him as a “man steeped in traditional ways.” But Grimes, while serving as chief justice in 1994, also authorized placing a Florida Supreme Court website on the fledgling internet. Grimes was a member of the Supreme Court from 1987 to 1997, after serving as an appellate judge.
— ALCEE HASTINGS: The elections of Alcee Hastings, Carrie Meek and Corrine Brown to the U.S. House in 1992 were landmark events, as they became the state’s first Black members of Congress since Reconstruction. Hastings, a Democrat who died in April at age 84, was Florida’s longest-serving member of Congress at the time of his death, representing parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.
— JOSEPH HATCHETT: When Joseph Hatchett took the Florida Bar exam in 1959, he could not stay in the hotel where it was administered because of the Jim Crow system. But in 1975, Hatchett became the first Black justice on the Florida Supreme Court and was named four years later to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he served until 1999, including a stint as chief judge. Hatchett, 88, died in April.
— HARRY JOHNSTON: As Florida Senate president in 1985, West Palm Beach Democrat Harry Johnston made a priority of passing a landmark growth-management law in the fast-growing state. Johnston, who died in June at age 89, served in the Senate from 1974 to 1986 and then was a member of the U.S. House from 1989 to 1997.
— RUSH LIMBAUGH: After conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh died in February, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to lower flags to half-staff drew an outcry from Democrats such as Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. But Limbaugh, a Palm Beach resident who died at age 70, left a huge imprint on Florida and national politics with his love-him-or-hate-him style and the influence he had on conservative media.
— CARRIE MEEK: Carrie Meek was a woman of firsts. After serving in the Florida House, Meek in 1982 became the first Black woman elected to the state Senate. In 1992, she and fellow Democrats Alcee Hastings and Corrine Brown became Florida’s first Black members of Congress since Reconstruction. Meek, who died in November at age 95, remained in the U.S. House for a decade, with her son Kendrick succeeding her.
— RALPH TURLINGTON: During his nearly four decades in public office, Ralph Turlington held two of the most-powerful jobs in state government. Turlington, who died in May at age 100, served as House speaker in the 1960s and later served more than a dozen years as state education commissioner, at the time an elected Cabinet position. While he did not run for another term in 1986, he helped lead a drive to approve the Florida Lottery.
— LOUIE WAINWRIGHT: Louie Wainwright led Florida’s corrections system from 1962 to 1986, a tenure that is almost certain to never be matched. But nationally, Wainwright will go down in history because his name was attached to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1963 Gideon v. Wainwright decision, which established a right to attorneys for criminal defendants. Wainwright, a Lawtey native, died this month at age 98.
–News Service of Florida