UF Law ceremony honors two: former state justice, bar president

Published: September 16th, 2013

Category: News

Two distinguished graduates of the University of Florida Levin College of Law, one who made his mark as a Florida jurist and law professor, the other who rose to the top ranks among practicing lawyers in the state, will be inducted posthumously Friday into the Heritage of Leadership Society. The ceremony is 3:30 p.m. in the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center, 1714 SW 34th St.

The event is closed to the public, but media are invited to cover the ceremony.

The images of former Justice Ben Overton and Mark Hulsey, along with their most significant accomplishments, are etched into glass on the second floor of Holland Hall on the law school campus as a permanent tribute to their contributions to the nation, the state and the university. An electronic display accompanies the etchings.

Hulsey, 1922-2011, was a 1948 graduate of UF Law. Upon graduation he joined the U.S. Navy where he served as the communications officer aboard the LST 56th (Landing Ship Tank), a ship that landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Hulsey joined Smith, Hulsey, Schwalbe, Spraker & Nichols in Jacksonville in 1969, the same year he became president of The Florida Bar.

While president, Hulsey inspired and encouraged creation of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. After consolidation of the judicial system under the 1972 constitution, he served on the commission from 1972 to 1984 and as chairman from 1981 to 1984.

He established in 1980 a moot court competition between the law schools of the University of Florida and the University of Georgia. The Hulsey-Gambrell annual competition will once again be held this year the day before the big game in Jacksonville. In 1985, he was awarded The Florida Bar Foundation Medal of Honor and in 1992 he was named a UF Distinguished Alumnus.

Overton, 1926-2012, was a 1952 graduate of UF Law. Serving on the Florida Supreme Court from 1974 to 1999, including as chief justice 1976 to 1978, Overton gave the public new ways to observe the justice system in action by bringing computers, public access and TV cameras into state courtrooms. Overton also played a key role in making sure the court was one of the very first in the world to have a website. He authored more than 1,400 decisions as a justice, including the opinion that required continuing legal education classes as a requirement to practice law in Florida.

Overton retired from the U.S. Army Reserve as a major in the JAG Corps  to continue his involvement with the National Judicial College. He served as a U.S. delegate to Romania to assist the Constitutional Drafting Committee of the Romanian Parliament in1990. He served as chair of the U.S. Constitution Bicentennial Commission of Florida from 1986 to1992.

In 2001, Overton joined UF Law as an adjunct professor. He taught Florida constitutional law and a Florida Supreme Court seminar. UF recognized Overton as a UF Distinguished Alumnus in 2008.

Hulsey and Overton join 32 others in the Heritage of Leadership Recognition Society, representing illustrious personalities in the history of the University of Florida College of Law since it was founded in 1909. Members are pre-eminent graduates and others who have been involved in the college in very significant ways. They assumed national leadership positions and distinguished themselves in legal, governmental, academic and corporate sectors. They labored to improve the administration of justice and received the highest commendations for contributions to the profession and service to education, civic, charitable and cultural causes.

Members of the Heritage of Leadership Recognition Society are selected by the Heritage of Leadership Committee, which presents the slate for discussion and approval to the full membership of the University of Florida Law Center Association, Inc. Board of Trustees.