A long legal career

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  • | 12:00 p.m. April 12, 2010
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by Joe Wilhelm Jr.

Staff Writer

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Lee Adams plans to have more time with his grandchildren and the golf course in his future.

Adams has been a member of the legal community for more than 40 years and all but 10 of those years have been served on the bench.

This career, as both an attorney and a judge, were celebrated Friday with a portrait unveiling sponsored by the Jacksonville Chapter of the Federal Bar Association in Adams’ Courtroom 10a at the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m still processing it,” said Adams. “But I am glad I am at the end.”

Adams has achieved senior status in U.S. District Court and the designation will lighten his caseload to allow him to spend more time with the grandchildren and pursue the mastery of golf at area courses.

Adams had not kept secret his passion for learning the game of golf and the ceremony and reception were peppered with golf references. An office putting green was set up in the hallway to one of the courtrooms to put people in the spirit.

Adams earned his B.S. in 1966 from Florida A&M University and his J.D. from Howard University College of Law in 1969.

He was awarded a Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship in April 1969 and after completing a Consumer Rights and Poverty Law training program at Haverford College, Ardmore, Pa., was assigned to the Duval County Legal Aid (now Jacksonville Area Legal Aid). The fellowship recognizes the services and outstanding achievements of a civil legal aid attorney or an indigent defense attorney while employed by an organization supporting such services.

The “Reggie” is named for a former counsel at the Boston Legal Aid Society and the author of Justice and the Poor, published by the Carnegie Foundation in 1919. He was appointed as an Assistant Public Defender of the Fourth Judicial Circuit and held the position until January 1972. He then joined the law firm of Sheppard, Fletcher, Hand & Adams.

“One of the proudest moments of my legal career was opening Jacksonville’s first integrated law firms,” said Bill Sheppard, Adams’ former partner. “His experience as a public defender helped teach me to become a criminal lawyer.”

Circuit Court Judge Hugh Carithers worked at the firm with Adams and wasn’t surprised with his success in the legal community.

“He’s a cut above,” said Carithers. “Not only is he one of the greatest judges I’ve ever met, but he’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever met.”

In 1976, he joined the law firm of Marshall & Adams, where he maintained a general practice. In October 1979, he was appointed Circuit Judge in and for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval and Nassau counties), where he served until his appointment to the federal bench in 1993.

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