by J. Brooks Terry
The Florida Supreme Court Historical Society will honor recently retired Supreme Court Judge Major B. Harding Thursday in the Duval County Courthouse as part of its oral history program. Harding’s ceremonial session will be the society’s 19th since 1985.
“It is really just a way for us to honor Judge Harding’s many contributions to the judicial body of law,” said Park Trammell, a member of the FSCH. “A lot of effort goes into it.”
Trammell added that, while highly revered as a judge, Harding is also thought of as kind and fair when not in the courtroom, by friends and colleagues.
“He has always believed that the law should be administered fairly,” said Trammell. “But he is also very fair in life. Whether it be a janitor or a supreme court judge, he treats them with equal respect. It’s his trademark.”
Harding’s judicial career began in 1968 when he was appointed to be a juvenile court judge. Following stints as a circuit court judge and, finally, as chief judge for the 4th Judicial Circuit, former governor Lawton Chiles appointed him to the Florida Supreme Court in 1991. The former Jacksonville resident served as the Supreme Court’s chief justice from 1998-2000.
“He has lead an outstanding career,” said Trammell. “Many people don’t understand how the judicial branch of government operates. He possesses an amazing knowledge of the field and has made significant efforts to raise public awareness.”
Beginning at 3:30 p.m. in Courtroom 4, the session will include remarks by several speakers, including U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Susan Black and Supreme Court Justice Charles Wells. Professor Charles Ehrhardt from the Florida State University College of Law will present a chronicle of some of Harding’s more memorable decisions. The entire ceremony will be videotaped and made available to law students and legal firms throughout the state.
“It is very important that we are able to record the sessions for their historical importance,” said Trammell, adding an original copy will be maintained at the Florida Supreme Court Library in Tallahassee.
Following the session, festivities honoring Harding move to the Omni for a reception followed by a dinner and good- natured roast. Trammell expects to see many people lampooning Harding’s signature bow tie.
“When he originally retired from the Supreme Court,” said Trammel, “everyone wore one, even the women. The strong tradition of our oral histories has been started. I expect it to continue for a long time.”