Alto L. Adams

(1899-1989)

Alto L. Adams

First graduate of the University of Florida College of Law to become Justice (’40) – and Chief Justice (’49) – of the Florida Supreme Court. Noted for incisive analysis and short, clear opinions (referred to by press of the day as “inventor of one-page opinions”).

Born in Florida Panhandle, near DeFuniak Springs in Walton County, in 1899. Married Carra Williams in 1925, and they had two children: Alto “Bud” Adams Jr. and Elaine Adams. Survived by two children, seven grandsons and three greatgrandchildren. Reared in an environment of hard work and farm labor, he realized early that his future was in law, land and cattle.

College Education / Achievements

  • Graduated from University of Florida and its law school in 1921
  • Member of Alpha Phi Epsilon, Secretary / Treasurer and President of John Marshall Debating Society (now John Marshall Bar Association), and awarded Trustee Medal in Declamation Competition
  • Designated Distinguished Alumnus, University of Florida, 1974

Legal Experience

  • Practiced law in Pensacola, 1921-24
  • Practiced law in Ft. Pierce starting in 1924
  • Appointed by Governor in 1938 as Circuit Court Judge, St. Lucie County
  • In 1940, Florida voters adopted amendment creating seventh justice for State Supreme Court, and Governor appointed Adams to new post. He served as Justice, 1940-51 and 1967-68; and Chief Justice, 1949-51

Non-Legal Achievements

  • Started a cattle ranch (Adams Ranch) in St. Lucie County in 1937, and began to expand it in the 50s. Family ranches now encompass 65,000 acres in St. Lucie, Osceola and Okeechobee counties on which a new breed of cattle – Braford – was developed and gained national acceptance. Started Alto Adams & Associates insurance and bond firm in Miami in early 50s, and sold to associates in 60s

Associations / Organizations / Honors

  • Vice Chairman, State Welfare Board, 1937-38
  • President, Florida State Elks Association, 1937 Author of two books: The Fourth Quarter (1976) and Law of the Land (1980)