Justice Robert Fenwick Taylor
Former Justice Robert Fenwick Taylor was the 25th Justice on the Florida Supreme Court and served from 1891-1925. He is the longest-serving justice of his era.
Robert Taylor began life on his family’s plantation in coastal South Carolina, but moved with his parents to Marion County, Florida, in 1852. He studied at the East Florida Seminary at Ocala, and participated in the 1864 Civil War engagement at Gainesville.
After the war, he continued his education and read law, gaining admission to the bar in 1870.
Throughout the 1870s and early 1880s he practiced law in Gainesville and worked behind the scenes in Democratic Party politics. He was elected as a constitutional convention delegate in 1885, and then, in 1891, received an appointment to complete the term of Henry Mitchell on the Supreme Court. The next year he won election to the post and was re-elected five more times until he retired in 1925.
During those years he authored 564 opinions and participated in over 8,000 decisions, amounting to more than 75% of all the cases decided by the court from its beginning until 1925.
As a justice, he sometimes took very unpopular stands. His conservative philosophy led him to resist overregulation of business and to oppose quick convictions of individuals in an era of increasing racial injustice. He also participated in furnishing the new courtroom in the 1902 expansion of the capitol building. Some of those furnishings remain in the restored building today.
Taylor participated in many fraternal organizations and was active in hunting, fishing, and horseback riding into his old age. He was thrown over his horse’s head in 1919 at the age of 70, but fully recovered from the accident. In 1927, two years after he retired, the justice contracted pneumonia and died.
Quick facts about Justice Taylor:
- Served 1891 – 1897, 1905 – 1915, 1917 – 1923 as Justice and 1897 – 1905, 1915 – 1917, 1923 – 1925 as Chief Justice
- Born: March 10, 1849 – Beaufort District, South Carolina
- Died: February 26, 1927 – Tallahassee, Florida
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