Alumni Inducted into Heritage of Leadership

Published: April 4th, 2005

Category: News

Two chief justices of the Florida Supreme Court, a president of the American Bar Association and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives have been selected for the law school’s highest alumni honor

Four of the Levin College of Law’s most distinguished alumni — two chief justices of the Florida Supreme Court, a president of the American Bar Association and member of the U.S. House of Representatives — have been selected for induction into the Heritage of Leadership Recognition Society.

“The society is the law school’s highest mark of distinction for preeminent graduates who assumed leadership positions on national and international levels,” said Dean Robert Jerry. “These individuals distinguished themselves in remarkable ways and it is a true privilege to honor their accomplishments.”

Justice Ehrlich and the families of the other three inductees, who are accepting posthumous awards, will be recognized at an April 8 banquet, which also will be attended by members of the college’s Law Center Association Board of Trustees and Law Alumni Council.

The Class of 2005 inductees are: Charles Bennett, a 1934 graduate, was Florida’s longest serving congressman and the second longest-tenured member of the House when he retired in 1993 after 44 years. He sponsored legislation that created the House Ethics Committee and Americans with Disabilities Act and made “In God We Trust” the U.S. motto. Bennett became the second-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee and chaired the investigative committees that oversaw the Watergate and Abscam scandals.

Raymond Ehrlich, a 1942 graduate, practiced law for 35 years before serving on the Florida Supreme Court for a decade, including as chief justice. He was appointed special counsel to U.S. Sen. Bob Graham in 1991 and received the Florida Bar Foundation’s Medal of Honor Award in 1993 for outstanding contributions to the administration of justice, including his work to automate courts, assign law clerks to circuit judges, promote alternative dispute resolution and defend judicial independence.

Richard Ervin, Jr., a 1928 graduate, was elected three times as attorney general of Florida, serving with five governors from 1949 to 1964. He is credited with desegregating Florida schools with a minimum of friction and launching a drive to rid the state of illegal gambling. As a Florida Supreme Court justice from 1964 to 1975 and chief justice in 1969 and 1970, Ervin wrote countless opinions in support of the rights of the individual, especially the poor and disadvantaged.

Chesterfield Smith, a 1948 graduate, founded one of the largest law firms in the country, Holland & Knight. As chairman for almost three decades, he led the way in hiring women and minorities and encouraging pro bono work. In 1973, he served as president of the American Bar Association and challenged President Richard Nixon during the Watergate investigations. Smith received numerous honors including the ABA Medal from the Board of Governors, American Civil Liberties Union’s Nelson Poynter Award, and the Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award, presented by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Heritage of Leadership Recognition Society was officially activated in 2003 with the induction of 12 men, who collectively served as five chief justices, two governors, two Florida Bar presidents, two U.S. senators, two university presidents, two law school deans and one U.S. district court judge.

“The UF College of Law has served Florida and the nation for almost a century and has a rich legacy of educating men and women who demonstrate a lifelong dedication to education, civic, charitable and cultural causes,” Dean Jerry said. “Throughout their careers, they brought distinction to their families and our law school, and they set the standard for all of us.”