Justice James Calhoun Adkins, Jr.

Former Justice James Adkins was the 58th Justice on the Supreme Court. He served from 1969 to 1987. He said he was “raised with a law book in my hand.”  His father served for many years as a state attorney. 

He graduated from the University of Florida College of Law in 1938, and landed a job as the sole research assistant to all the justices of the Florida Supreme Court.  Court Librarian Carson Sinclair told him he had been hired in part because he knew how to type.

Adkins returned to practice law in his father’s well-established law firm in Gainesville, in 1941.  In 1957, he became an assistant state attorney, then a judge on the Alachua County Court of Record.  He resigned because of the low salary, returning to private practice. 

Then in 1964, he was appointed to the Eight Judicial Circuit Court. In 1968, he ran successfully for the Florida Supreme Court and was elected at age 53.

He experienced trouble in his marriage and began drinking to excess after several years.  The problem became serious enough to bring him before the Judicial Qualifications Commission.  He accepted the commission-ordered sobriety, and also began writing murder mysteries. 

In 1987, Adkins had to retire because he had reached the mandated constitutional age of 72.  He fought that constitutional mandate, unsuccessfully, famously calling the situation “constitutional senility.”  He went back to private practice for the last years of his life, and continued to write novels.

Justice Adkins served as Justice for 18 years from January 7, 1969 to January 6, 1987. He served as Chief Justice from March 1, 1974 to March 1, 1976. He was born in Gainesville, Florida, on January 18, 1915, and died on June 24, 1994, in Tallahassee, Florida.

Former Justices

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