Justices of the Florida Supreme Court

Address:
Supreme Court of Florida
500 South Duval Street
Tallahassee Florida
32399-1925

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Justice James McNair Baker

b. Robeson County, North Carolina – July 20, 1821                    d. June 20, 1892 – Jacksonville, Florida

James Baker graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina in 1844 and then read law.  He moved to Florida for his health in 1846 and was admitted to the bar at Madison.  By 1850, Baker had moved to Alligator, Florida, where he developed a thriving law practice and a large plantation.  He was a member of the Whig Party, but saw his political opportunities collapse when the party disintegrated in 1852.  In 1856, the state legislature named a newly formed county after him, and three years later he helped rename his hometown “Lake City.”  When Florida seceded from the Union in 1861, Baker was not in favor of the move, but he supported his adopted state and later that year Florida voters elected him to the Confederate Senate in Richmond.  He was reelected in 1863.  At first he fully supported the policies of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, but by 1864, he developed strong opposition to the high taxes and conscription of skilled workers that imposed hardships on the states.  After the war, Florida Governor David Walker appointed Baker to the state supreme court.  In 1868 a new constitution went into effect and Baker, as well as the two other justices, was not returned to office.  He felt bitter toward the reconstruction policies of the U.S. Congress and worked to advance the cause of the Democratic Party.  Baker pursued his legal career and developed a stronger interest in his Presbyterian church.  Governor William Bloxham appointed Baker judge of the fourth judicial circuit in 1881, where he remained until ill health forced his retirement in 1890.  He died two years later.

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