Levin College of Law

Harold “Tom” L. Sebring

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Harold 'Tom' L. Sebring

Perhaps no other UFLaw grad has such a varied background: highly decorated World War I combat soldier, star college athlete in three sports, lawyer, football referee, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice, law school dean, War Trials judge and head coach of University of Florida track, boxing and football teams (while earning his law degree). Harold “Tom” Sebring was regarded as “a creative, brilliant innovator” as Gator football coach, and his 1925 team finished 8-2 (best record in school history to that time). His last year of coaching, ’27, the Gators finished 7-3 (beating Alabama and Auburn on the road), and he recruited the starters for the ‘28 team that would finish 8-1 and lead the nation in scoring. Eighteen years later, while serving on the Florida Supreme Court – after a distinguished career as a practicing attorney and Circuit Judge – Sebring was appointed as a judge in the Nuremberg Trial of Nazi war criminals.

Born 1898, in Olanthe, KS. Married Elise Bishop of Gainesville, FL, and they had one child: Harold L. Sebring Jr.

College Education / Achievements

  • B.S. Kansas State College, 1923 (formerly Kansas State Agricultural College). Freshman Class President, Senior Class Vice-President, letterman in football / track / boxing, first team. All Missouri Valley Conference 1921-22, named to “Kansas State Aggies All-Time Football Team.”
  • J.D. University of Florida, 1928
  • Honorary Degrees: Kansas State, Tampa, Stetson Universities
  • Designated Distinguished Alumnus, University of Florida, 1969

Legal Experience

  • Practiced law in Miami and Jacksonville
  • Appointed Judge, Eighth Judicial Circuit, 1933 (served until 1943)
  • Florida Supreme Court Justice, 1943-55; Chief Justice, 1951-53
  • Drafted Appellate Rules of Florida, assisted in drafting Florida Rules of Civil Procedure; member, three Florida Constitutional Revisions Committees: member, National Conference; Chief Justices’ Committee on state/federal jurisdiction in habeas corpus proceedings
    • Member, Nazi War Crimes Tribunal, Nuremburg, Germany, 1946-47 (appointed by President Harry S Truman)

Non-Legal Achievements

  • World War I (decorated for gallantry by both U.S. and French governments)
  • Dean, Stetson University College of Law, 1955-68
  • Head Coach, University of Florida football, track and boxing teams (while attending law school)

Associations / Organizations / Honors

  • Stetson University Law School designates Sebring Memorial Courtroom in his honor (Sebring was first Dean at Stetson Law’s Gulfport, FL, campus)
  • Florida Blue Key (Honorary)

Published: June 26th, 2014

Category: Alumni

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