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  • Florida Supreme Court
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    Tallahassee Florida
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    Banner: Portrait Gallery

    Justice George Sydney Hawkins

    1846-1851

    George Hawkins graduated from Columbia University and briefly practiced law in New York City before moving to Florida at age 20.  He settled in Marianna and began a distinguished legal career.  Hawkins was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1833, and served in the territorial legislature as well as the state militia during the Second Seminole War.  He also gained appointment as the U.S. attorney for the Apalachicola district in 1842. 

    Upon statehood, Hawkins was elected to the new state Senate, but also received the nomination for judge of the western circuit.  Until 1851, the three circuit judges in Florida also sat as the state Supreme Court twice a year.  Hawkins resigned his Senate seat to become circuit/Supreme Court judge.  Nominally a Whig, the new judge also worked closely with Democratic Party leaders and gained reelection to the court in 1848 and 1850.  He accepted a federal appointment as collector of customs at Apalachicola in 1853.  By this time he had joined the Democratic Party and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1856 and again in 1858.  When secession became an issue with the election of Abraham Lincoln as U.S. president, Hawkins became the first member of Congress to resign, on January 21, 1861.  He later served as a Confederate district court judge, then, after the war, carried on a private law practice in his hometown, where he died while working on a recodification of Florida law.

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