Remembering Fredric G. Levin
Dear UF Law Community,
I am deeply saddened to share the news that our namesake and champion Fredric G. Levin passed away Tuesday, January 12, at the age of 83.
After graduating from the College of Law in 1961, Fred went on to become one of the most successful trial attorneys in the nation, winning more than 25 verdicts in excess of $1,000,000. In 1994, Fred received the “Perry Nichols Award,” the highest honor bestowed by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers in recognition of lifetime achievements in the pursuit of justice. The National Law Journal named Fred the top civil litigator in Florida and one of the Top Ten Litigators nationwide in 1999. That same year, Fred was honored at the United Nations as he was named a Chief of the Republic of Ghana for his dedication to equal justice for people of all races. The United States Congressional Black Caucus bestowed honors upon Fred at the same time. In 2009, Fred was inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame by the American Trial Lawyers Association.
Fred’s incredible financial contributions to the College of Law, starting in 1999, have fueled our rise, supporting student scholarships, faculty recruitment, and the expansion of our campus. We are forever indebted to Fred and his family and friends for their generosity. Fred is survived by so many who have propelled the Levin College of Law forward, including close friend Phillip Morris, daughter Judge Marci Levin Goodman and son-in-law Judge Ross Goodman both from the UF Law Class of 1985, son Martin Levin from the UF Law Class of 1988, grandson Brenton Goodman from the UF Law Class of 2016, and sister-in-law Teri Levin, who was married to Fred’s brother Allen Levin.
Please join me in extending our deepest condolences to Fred’s family and friends.
Very truly yours,
Laura Ann Rosenbury
Dean and Levin, Mabie & Levin Professor of Law
These plaques honoring the legacy of the Levin family are on display in the Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center and in Holland Hall on the UF Levin College of Law campus.
“He was always an advocate for the underdog.”
Dean Laura A. Rosenbury in the Alligator
“Dad says we must provide those opportunities to others … He says that the future leaders – those who are going to make a difference – in all likelihood are not going to be the wealthy, the privileged, but someone we’ve never heard of. Someone who’s worked their way up.”
Martin Levin (JD 88) on Fred Levin’s $6 million donation in 2019
“We are forever indebted to Fred and his family and friends for their generosity.”
Dean Laura A. Rosenbury in Daily Business Review
UF Law celebrates 20 years as the Fredric G. Levin College of Law
Fred Levin gives an additional $6 million to UF Levin College of Law
UF Levin College of Law wishes Fred Levin a happy birthday
Fred Levin’s family creates a video to remember his life and legacy
Fred Levin delivers the 2016 Spring Commencement Address
(remarks begin at 46:16)
Images of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the naming gift of the University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law (March, 2019).
Fred Levin has always been the person who was willing to try. Unafraid of difficulty, he always said “why not”. I knew Fred for forty years. He loved the college of law and he loved his family.
Fred’s vision for the college of law changed everything. His generous endowment changed our course, made us able to compete successfully for the best students and faculty.
He was a crusader for racial justice- not because it was popular, but because it was who he was and always had been. He fought for equal treatment for his fellow student, George Starke, even back in 1958. They remained friends for life.
He was a brilliant person with diverse talents. He was a great lawyer and a great boxing manager. Fred was Roy Jones, Jr’s manager. Jones was one of the best fighters of all time. Fred invited me to attend one of Roy Jones fights in Miami. Fred had planned suitably grand prefight receptions and post-fight celebrations. Everyone wanted to be at Fred’s gatherings. Jones won and I’ll never forget Fred walking around celebrating in the ring after the fight. He loved it. Fred loved life and he lived it . To say Fred Levin was wonderfully unique IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT. To say he did it his way is absolutely true.
I admired Fred and I loved him as a friend. The world will miss him but his spirit will always be with us.
Thank you Martin, Marci , Ross and Phillip for sharing this remarkable man with us and the rest of the world. Godspeed Fred.
Professor of Law
Fred Levin will be known forever as one of the most consequential figures in the history of the law school. His generous 1999 gift and the state match sparked a sustained period of progress that has had, and will have, lasting influence on generations of law students and graduates. He was passionate about civil rights; he took strong stands against discrimination when many people found it easier to stay in their seats. He was devoted to—and proud of—his family, and he was generous in his support of many important civic and philanthropic causes in the Pensacola area and beyond. As one of the leaders in the tobacco litigation in the 1990s, he made massive—and underappreciated—contributions to our nation’s public health. He lived his life fully and energetically; he enjoyed a good glass of red wine, and he liked his steak broiled Pittsburgh-style. I’ll remember his laugh and his smile, and I’ll always appreciate my good fortune that a part of my life’s journey crossed with his.
Fredric G. Levin, Esq. – My Friend
Everyone knows Fred Levin, and what he has done for the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida. And for thousands whose lives he saved as they learned the dangers of smoking. My fond memories of him predate the naming of the school and go back to when we were first-year law students in 1958.
I first saw Fred at the Law School’s initial indoctrination session. He sat possibly three rows behind me and was with some of his undergraduate classmates. I sat alone. He was the second person I met, and we became friends instantly. Lifelong friends. We shared many experiences. He was Jewish. I was African-American and the first to attend the university.
Fred and I were in the minority by far. So much that he and I had difficulty finding mentors. We formed a study group – the two of us alone – that lasted for some time. As matters settled, others joined us. We were last in our class to finally locate a mentor – Josh Okun, now deceased. Josh later told us that he was quickly ostracized by many on the faculty for taking us on. We anticipated that at the time. He understood, and was very helpful.
There were several qualities I admired in Fred then, and throughout his life. Character and integrity are two traits that first come to mind though there are many others. He believed in what he believed in and was willing to stand up for those beliefs. It was often to my benefit that he would say or do the right thing under any particular set of circumstances. Regardless of criticism, Fred was never afraid to speak up for his beliefs; nor was he afraid to support his causes and those of others in which he also believed. He certainly believed in the rule of law. He lived it.
In 1999, I visited him in Pensacola. I was not surprised to see a large easel in a corner of his office with a large rendering of a large brick classroom building bearing his name. Some 41 years after meeting Fred, I thought: This is exactly the kind of generous selfless act that Fred would do. Obviously, he loved the UF law school – even after seeking permission to go home for a few days when a close relative passed and the Dean told him to just “stay home.” Suppose Fred had listened to that! Instead, the remark propelled him to return to UF and become one of the leaders of his class and to graduate with high marks. Fred’s character and integrity were supported by determination.
That determination showed up probably more in the courtroom than anywhere else. I understand that Fred won more than 25 cases in succession following his entry into the practice of law. He always said that he was at the right place at the right time – that, in the legendary tobacco case, and subsequently, he was “lucky.” Someone asked Fred recently, how he had won so many cases in a row and what was the secret to his success. He responded: “Preparation.” Yet, another wonderful trait. Preparation is a concept he recently stressed to current students at the law school. Study. Prepare. Commit. Lead.
Character, integrity, determination, preparation and generosity (he gave away millions beyond his contributions to the Levin College of Law.) A few years ago, Fred made a substantial donation to the UF Association of Black Alumni – in my name. Unsolicited. There are so many attributes I could use to honor Fred. But the one I will cherish most is Friend. He did it “his way.”
George H. Starke, Jr., (Hon) LL.D.
I had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Levin in his 2019 visit to campus. I asked Fred if he would have done anything differently with his life/profession if he had the opportunity to start over. He responded “I didn’t have to be a superstar.” He further elaborated that just a little success would have been sufficient and emphasized the importance of cherishing the relationships we have with family and loved ones. May his memory be a blessing.
J.D., LL.M. ‘20
I had the privilege of meeting and thanking Mr. Levin at the 20th anniversary celebration for his original gift to name the Levin College of Law. Mr. Levin’s generosity helped establish a scholarship that transformed my law school experience, for which I will always be grateful. His legacy of inclusivity and generosity has made and will continue to make an impact on me, my classmates, and the legal profession for years to come.
Class of 2020
Having faced prejudice and various challenges himself, Fred Levin understood the importance of paying it forward and paving the way for others to have a brighter future. And that is exactly what he did with his continued support of UF Law over the years. The UF Law community owes much to Fred for placing trust in our institution and making all of our futures brighter as we continue to soar to new heights.
Class of 2019
In 1999 Fred Levin made an unprecedently generous gift to the University of Florida’s College of Law that resulted in the school being renamed the Fredric G. Levin College of Law. I joined the faculty in the Fall of 1999, shortly after it was named in honor of Fred Levin’s remarkable gift and had the honor and privilege of being named the Levin, Mabie, & Levin Professor of Law. The enormity of that honor quickly became clear. Fred was a gifted litigator, a consummate gentleman, a generous and kind spirit, a loving family man, and a dedicated believer in equality, justice, and the centrality of civil rights to the human existence. His generosity has been transformative for the law school, not only for the institution itself but also for generations of students and graduates as well as for the many faculty who benefit from his commitment to justice. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that I personally have benefitted from Fred’s generosity as the Levin Professorship supported my human rights research focusing on themes of equality and justice – race, gender, culture, and sexuality – that Fred fought for all his life. Fred was one of a kind. He will be greatly missed and I am hugely grateful that our lives’ journeys crossed. His memory is a blessing.
Berta Esperanza Hernández-Truyol
Stephen C. O’Connell Chair
University of Florida Research Foundation Professor
University Term Professor
Fred Levin gave so much, with generosity and grace, to enable the College of Law to achieve great things. For those tangible gifts we owe him a great deal. In his memorable graduation speech, however, he gave a lasting, priceless testament what really matters–love, laughter, family and justice.
David H. Levin Chair in Family Law
University of Florida Distinguished Professor
Fred Levin leaves a legacy that our law school can be proud of. I was a student at UF when the school was renamed the Levin College of Law, taking classes at both the law school and College of Journalism and Communications as part of a joint degree program. As my interest in entertainment and intellectual property law grew, I became aware that Fred also represented entertainment and sports clients, most notably, the boxer, Roy Jones Jr. Wanting to pursue a career as an entertainment lawyer, with a plan to move to New York or California, I remember writing to Fred asking for a letter of reference and an introduction to any of his industry contacts. Fred and I didn’t know each other well; in fact, we likely only crossed paths a few times during his visits to campus. Nevertheless, I received a letter in the mail from him supporting my entry into practicing entertainment law. He even helped set up some meetings for me in New York upon my arrival.
Fred’s gesture to support this soon-to-be Levin College of Law graduate has stayed with me. I have found great pride over the years in serving as a mentor to law students and young lawyers at the start of their careers. In recalling this memory of Fred, it makes me think that his willingness to support my career has instilled in me this want to “pay it forward”. I look forward to giving Fred a nod every time that I take a moment now to support an aspiring lawyer …
MAMC / JD 2002
Global Citizen, General Counsel
A few years ago, Dexter Douglas and I represented MacKenzie Tank Lines in an action for recovery of insurance in a bad-faith action against their insurance company for damages arising out of discharge into the Pensacola sewer line which killed a sewer line worker. As I recall, we both did very well for our respective clients. That was my Fred Levin story. My Fred Levin story is now, the magnanimous gift to my beloved University of Florida Law School. Thank you for your generosity and commitment to making our law school one of the greatest law schools in the Country. There could be no greater honor for the memory of our late Governor Lawton Chiles, the generalissimo in the war against big tobacco, than to see some of the proceeds of that war dedicated to the benefit of the law school which he, also, so dearly loved. I thank you for myself and for my classmates and for my son, who tells me it is his dream to someday attend the Fredric G. Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
Very truly yours,
Gary L. Printy
Written to Fred Levin on January 27, 1999
I offer my deepest condolences to my classmate and friend, Martin Levin.
Class of 1988
Images of the Student Bar Association Speaker Spotlight event with Fred Levin and special guests (March, 2019).
The Law Center Association at the University of Florida Levin College of Law adopted the following resolution during its Winter 2021 Business Meeting.
Ohio Representative Emilia Sykes (JD 11) issued the following letter.
We will celebrate your legacy, Fred Levin.