E. Thom Rumberger (LLB 61)
E. Thom Rumberger (LLB 61), known as “defender of the Everglades,” passed away Sept. 7 in Tallahassee at the age of 79.
Rumberger was a highly respected attorney whose commitment to advocacy and superior client representation was evident throughout his legal career. Among his largest clients were General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and The Everglades Foundation, Inc., which he served as lead counsel since 1989 and aided in the implementation of some of the first protection laws for the Florida Manatee.
Before college, Rumberger served in the United States Marine Corps. While attending UF Law, he was a member of Florida Blue Key and associate editor of the Florida Law Review in 1960. As a double Gator alumnus, he served on the Law Center Association’s Board of Trustees.
During the years immediately after his graduation, Rumberger held many public service jobs in Central Florida, accepting brief appointments as acting sheriff and circuit court judge at the age of 35, making him, as of 1967, the youngest circuit court judge in modern Florida history to be appointed.
Following his judgeship, he took on the role of assistant to the Florida governor and became county attorney for Seminole County from 1971 to 1974.
In 1978, Rumberger established the law firm of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, which now maintains five offices in Florida and Alabama.
However, his work in the private sector never took him away from his commitment to public interest. He continued to aid in the preservation of the Florida Everglades and in the reform of Florida’s election procedures following the ballot issues during the presidential election in 2000.
Rumberger was honored on the floor of the United States Senate by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in August for his service to the state.
Rumberger is survived by his wife Debbie Rumberger and his seven children, Susan McKinley, Hayden Dempsey, Todd Rumberger, Matt Dempsey, Katie Lehr, Molly Domin and Chris Garret.
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