Jacksonville lawyer George Gabel Jr.’s recent honor as International Business Leader of the Decade by the JAX Chamber is one symbol that sums up his years, actually decades, of effort to bring international trade to town.
It’s only one of many achievements.
Admitted to The Florida Bar in 1964, the University of Florida College of Law graduate has a list of honors and awards, memberships, court admissions, published articles and books as well as speaking engagements that prints out on two pages of very small type. And that’s the abbreviated list.
“What I’ve really enjoyed doing is practicing law and it’s been the right thing to do,” Gabel said from his offices near the top of the 42-story Bank of America Tower Downtown.
“One person can make a difference in all kinds of ways,” he said.
Gabel knows those ways.
For example, as the national litigation practice development partner for Holland & Knight LLP, Gabel works with more than 400 lawyers in more than 20 practice groups.
His practices comprise almost a dozen areas, and he is best known as a maritime lawyer and a communications counsel.
Piracy laws? He helps write them. Communications law? Why, yes. The First Amendment? Of course.
Genteel, attentive and determined, Gabel knows his way not only around the courtroom, but around the globe.
Gabel started forming his world views from the Murray Hill neighborhood in West Jacksonville where he grew up. He was the second child and the oldest boy of five children. His dad was in the water pump business.
Gabel attended John Gorrie Junior High School and Robert E. Lee High School, serving as a student council president at both and co-captaining the swim team his senior year.
He also was head percussionist of the high school band and played with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra his last year in high school.
An English major, Gabel attended Davidson College in North Carolina on an academic scholarship and was on the swimming team. He also was president of his fraternity.
He went on to earn his law degree at the University of Florida.
Asked for three priorities as he nears his 50th year of practicing law and serving the community, Gabel, also a member of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, said that one is to “help globalize Jacksonville.”
Another is to continue developing the national litigation practice throughout the Holland & Knight system.
The other isn’t business. “I spend a lot of time with our family and taking family trips,” he said. He and his wife, Judy, have two daughters, two sons-in-law and four grandchildren.
He also continues to swim, at least five days a week. He walks two miles and swims a quarter-mile at The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, which features a large heated indoor pool.
He is a lifelong member of Riverside Presbyterian Church, where he is an elder and chair of a $12 million capital campaign.
Gabel is an outspoken advocate for logistics opportunities and port development, especially dredging the St. Johns River to accommodate larger ships and correcting the Mile Point navigational problem.
“We need to make every effort we can for deeper water,” he said. “It’s an opportunity that may never come again.”