Justice James Bryan Whitfield

Justice James Bryan Whitfield

Justice James Bryan Whitfield

Former Justice James Whitfield was the 33rd Justice on the Florida Supreme Court and served from 1904-1943.

His family moved to Leon County in 1863.  He graduated from the West Florida Seminary, the University of Virginia, and passed his bar exam in Florida in 1886.  He returned to Tallahassee to serve as secretary to Governor Edward Perry.  

In 1889, Whitfield was appointed clerk of the Florida Supreme Court where he served until 1897.  Following a scandal involving the incumbent state treasurer, Governor William Jennings appointed him to that post. 

In 1903, the governor appointed him state attorney general.  Finally, in 1904, the governor appointed him to the Florida Supreme Court. 

For many years, Justice Whitfield had the distinction of having been the longest serving justice in Florida Supreme Court history.  Though now the second-longest serving justice, a number of his published opinions were accepted as authoritative in Florida and other states, including Montgomery v. State, from 1908, in which it was found unlawful to exclude prospective jurors from trials because they were black.

Succeeding generations of Whitfields have produced still more public servants. Justice Whitfield's Grandfather, James Bryan Whitfield, served in the North Carolina Senate. His father, Richard A. Whitfield, became a Leon County judge after moving to Tallahassee during the Civil War. Justice Whitfield's brother, Talbot Whitfield, served with distinction for many years as the Clerk of the Supreme Court.

And to this day the tradition of service has not ended. Justice Whitfield's grandnephew is Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, former President of Florida State University and former President of the American Bar Association.

Quick facts about Justice Whitfield:

  • Served February 15, 1904 – January 4, 1943 as Justice,
  • Served January 10, 1905 – June 12, 1905; January 6, 1909 – January 1913 and January 8, 1935 – January 1937 as Chief Justice  [appointed at age 43]
  • Second longest-serving justice
  • Served as Supreme Court Clerk from 1889-1897
  • Born: November 8, 1860 - Wayne County, North Carolina
  • August 21, 1948, Tallahassee, Florida
  • County Judge:  No.
  • Circuit Judge:  No.

Former Justices

Contact Information

Florida Supreme Court
500 South Duval Street
Tallahassee, Florida
32399-1925 | EMAIL
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