Justices of the Florida Supreme Court

Supreme Court of Florida
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Tallahassee Florida

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Justice Henry Laurens Mitchell

Served 1888 – 1890
b. Jefferson County, Alabama – September 3, 1831  d. October 14, 1903 – Tampa, Florida

Raised in Alabama and rural Florida, Henry Mitchell decided to make a change from tending livestock and crops for his father and studied law in the small village of Tampa in 1852.  By 1857 he had been admitted to the bar and began practice. He argued cases before the Supreme Court when it sat in Tampa as part of its yearly circuit.  Mitchell served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  After the war, he found that he needed to supplement his income and became a newspaper editor for a strongly partisan Democratic journal.  His advocacy against the Reconstruction policies of then-Governor Ossian Hart helped him gain a large following in the Democratic Party.  He was appointed judge of the sixth judicial circuit in 1877, at the end of the Reconstruction period.  Mitchell also speculated very successfully in land when the Plant System Railway built a line to Tampa in the early 1880s. In the late 1880s, the new 1885 Constitution required that Justices of the Supreme Court run for office in contested elections.  Mitchell gained his party’s nomination, was elected, and began a four-year term in January 1889. He sat on the court only until 1892, and then resigned to run for governor. His term in that office was marked by major agricultural and financial disasters. He retired to Tampa, where he was elected circuit court clerk and later became county treasurer.


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