Gator law in the family
Three family trees are intertwined with the heritage of UF Law
BY BRANDON BRESLOW (3LAS)
Read about more proud Gator law families.
Many UF Law alumni and students claim to bleed orange and blue. It’s more unusual for the colors to course through the branches and roots of their family trees.
For them, attending the University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law has become a proud tradition that has produced multiple generations of UF Law alumni.
Many also remain involved in the UF Law community as active alumni: returning to campus as guest lecturers on their field of practice, becoming members of the Law Center Association’s Board of Trustees or creating an endowment at the college.
“Multiple generations of the same family attending UF Law create a very strong sense of loyalty that is evidenced in how they volunteer their time and financial support as alumni,” said Kelley Frohlich, senior director of development and alumni affairs.
The tradition also helps students look to their family for guidance and support in tackling the worries, woes and workload inevitable in law school since family members have usually been in their seats, figuratively and sometimes literally.
“The shared bond among family members who can refl ect over a lifetime of experiences about the law and their time at UF Law, both the good and the bad, provides a two-way street of learning,” Frohlich said.
Following is a close-up of just three of these families, each with a student currently attending UF Law, each active in alumni activities, and, like many others, each proud of their tradition of Gator lawyers.
THE HUDSON/JENKINS FAMILY
Tyler Hudson (1L) took a long and winding road to UF Law, but ultimately genetics won out.
“My mom has always said with orange hair and blue eyes, I was marked as a Gator at birth,” Hudson said. “It just took me a while to get here.”
Hudson was never far away from UF Law in his heart or home. He was born into a Gainesville family with three generations of Gator lawyers: his mother, Judge Elizabeth Jenkins (JD 76), his grandfather, Joe C. Jenkins Jr. (JD 49), and his great-grandfather, Joe C. Jenkins Sr. (JD 32).
“Family was definitely a part of my decision to come here,” he said, “but it really came down to wanting a change of pace and to come back home.”
Hudson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 2007 from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He began his political career in 2004 as a press intern for U.S. Sen. John Edwards’ presidential primary campaign in New Hampshire. That same year, he was the youngest staff member of the Democratic National Convention, where he worked as a speechwriter for party leaders.
“I decided that it wasn’t something I wanted to make a career out of,” Hudson said, “but I’m tremendously grateful for the lessons I learned from the experience.”
He went on to work in Florida on President Barack Obama’s campaign and the gubernatorial campaign of former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, D-Fla.
The Jenkins family is no stranger to Florida politics. Joe C. Jenkins Sr. was a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 1939-1948, representing Alachua County.
“My son inherited my grandfather’s love for the political arena and public service,” said Elizabeth Jenkins, a federal magistrate judge for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa.
After his tenure in the state Legislature, her grandfather opened the law practice of Jenkins and Jenkins with his son, Joe C. Jenkins Jr. The firm handled mainly real property cases.
“Everybody in Gainesville knew about them and their office,” Elizabeth Jenkins said. “They were leaders in the community for decades.”
When Joe C. Jenkins Sr. passed away in 1958, his son took over the law firm. Joe C. Jenkins Jr. was known for spending hours at property closings explaining to his clients the importance and responsibilities of the asset they were acquiring.
“He was one of the great attorneys in Gainesville at the time who took a higher level of care in closing matters,” Elizabeth Jenkins said.
Joe C. Jenkins Jr. also worked as a part-time municipal judge for the 8th Judicial Circuit of Florida, handling traffic citations and misdemeanors.
His passion for adjudication was inherited by his daughter Elizabeth. She served as a federal prosecutor in Orlando and then West Palm Beach after serving with the Department of Justice immediately after graduating from UF Law. She became a federal magistrate judge in 1985.
“What I learned from the judges I would argue in front of as a prosecutor is what infl uenced my decision to become a judge,” Elizabeth Jenkins said.
Elizabeth Jenkins has returned to UF Law on many occasions to speak about the female role in the legal community and judicial clerkships. She is also a proud member of the Law Center Association’s Board of Trustees.
“Although I never pushed him, I am proud Tyler was able to continue our family’s tradition at UF Law,” she said. “He understands the importance of good judgment and solid legal skills.”
THE THACKER/OVERSTREET FAMILY
As graduation from Wake Forest University loomed for Celia Thacker (2L), the choice of which law school to attend weighed heavy. With three generations of graduates from UF Law preceding her, could she turn away from her chance to officially become a Gator?
“While I had several options for law school,” Thacker said, “I realized that Florida was the best choice for me.”
Thacker grew up as a Gator fan, attending her first football game at seven years old with her mother, Jo Overstreet Thacker (JD 87), an active UF alumna and member of the Law Center Association’s Board of Trustees.
“There is a tradition in my family that you must learn ‘We Are the Boys from Old Florida’ before you can attend your first football game,” Celia said.
When it came time to decide on law school, her mother and her grandfather, Murray Overstreet Jr. (LLB 53), gave Celia the opportunity to make the decision on her own.
“My family was really good about not pressuring me, but subtly dropped hints that Florida would be the best option for law school,” she said.
The same could be said for Jo, who was preceded by her father and her grandfather, Murray Overstreet Sr. (BLW 27). In the end, she made the decision based on what she wanted for her life.
“The glorious thing about our family’s tradition is that everyone decided on their own that they wanted to attend Florida for law school, independent of what the family may have wanted,” Jo said.
Celia also has family ties to UF Law on her father’s side. Her great-grandfather, O.S. Thacker (JD 29), who is also the great-grandfather of Jonathan Graessle (2L). Jonathan is a fourth generation student of UF Law as well. In addition to O.S. Thacker, preceding Jonathan are his father William Graessle (JD 85) and grandparents Lois Thacker-Graessle (LLB 41) and Albert W. Graessle (LLB 41).
Like individual bricks placed together to form a building, the Overstreet, and now Thacker, presence at UF Law stands tall, similar to the family’s presence in its hometown of Kissimmee.
Murray Overstreet Sr. opened his practice in Kissimmee immediately after his graduation in 1928. The firm handled real estate law, wills, trusts and estate planning. Murray Overstreet Jr. joined the fi rm when he graduated from UF Law and went on to become county attorney for Osceola County in 1960, a part-time position then.
Murray stepped down as county attorney in 1985 and again focused on the family’s private practice. Two years later, Jo joined the firm.
“Law school taught me to be prepared or suffer the consequences,” Jo said.
After 10 years in the family’s firm, Jo became county attorney in 1997, a full-time position. She held that office until last year.
Murray has since retired from his practice.
Through their work, the Overstreet family has influenced a lot of Kissimmee’s residents, something Celia is reminded of on a regular basis.
“When I go out in Kissimmee, I have people come up to me that I don’t recognize and tell me how great my family is and what (my family) has done to help them,” she said.
But now it is Celia’s family that gets to tell people about her accomplishments in moot court — as an active coach — and as a researcher for Professor Michael Allan Wolf, the Richard E. Nelson Chair in Local Government Law.
“We are extremely proud of her ability to hit the ground running and get involved,” Jo said.
THE BOONE FAMILY
Caroline Boone (3L) remembers receiving her letter of acceptance from UF Law like it was last week.
“I ran up the driveway from the mailbox and all the feelings of uncertainty came to rest,” Boone said.
In May, she became the fourth graduate in her family from UF Law, carrying on the Boone family’s proudest traditions.
However, law school was not always part of her plan.
“Towards the end of my undergraduate years, I was leaning toward becoming a teacher because I wanted to help people,” Boone said. “Eventually I talked to my dad about the decision and he helped me realize that lawyers can help people too.”
Her father, Jeffery Boone (JD 82), was speaking from experience. Jeffery Boone, his brother, Stephen Boone (JD 83), and their father, E.G. “Dan” Boone (LLB 54), run the Venice law firm of Boone, Boone, Boone, Koda & Frook. Their practice specializes in civil litigation, business and commercial law, land use, zoning, wills, trusts and estate planning.
The office’s orange and blue carpet and Gator-packed staff leave little question as to where the Boones earned their law degrees.
“I used to hire lawyers from all of the Florida law schools and out-of-state schools,” said E.G. Boone, “but I started only hiring Gators when I realized the education at UF was far above the education of these other schools.”
Caroline started as a law clerk at the firm last summer. She surprised the partners with her ability to apply the skills she learned at UF Law, and her personal savvy to complete the research, writing and other tasks required of her.
“I was really impressed with how quickly she would pick up on the goal of the assignments we gave her,” Jeffery Boone said. Caroline also attended City Commission meetings with family members as the fi rm handled zoning and land use issues in Venice.
“It was great to see the rapport that my family has with their clients and the respect that the community has for them,” Caroline said. “They really do give back to their community through different service clubs and our church.”
The Boone family has been prominent in the Venice community since E.G. Boone opened his firm in 1956. The firm helped establish the national banking charter for the First National Bank of Venice, now SunTrust Bank, and played a key role in implementing central water and sewage for Venice by founding the Civil Action Association.
The family never strayed from UF as they made the transition from students to alumni. E.G. Boone has served on the Law Center Association’s Board of Trustees since 1987 and as a member of the President’s Council. Boone’s firm also sponsored the barbeque luncheon at UF Law’s centennial celebration in 2009.
“I credit a lot of my success to what I learned at UF Law,” Jeffery Boone said.
After she graduates, Caroline will begin working as a fulltime attorney at her family’s fi rm. The rest of the family is hopeful for more generations of Gator lawyers in the future.
“We definitely want a fourth generation and are optimisticfor a fifth and sixth,” Jeffery Boone said.