A push to rename Tallahassee courthouse

The federal courthouse in Tallahassee. Photo courtesy: tallahassee.com

The federal courthouse in Tallahassee could be named after Joseph Hatchett, the first Black state supreme court justice, in an effort to commemorate and honor his work and legacy.

The bill to change the name was introduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee. If passed, the new name of the courthouse will be Judge Joseph Woodrow Hatchett U.S. Courthouse.

Hatchett was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He later served on the Florida Supreme Court, and on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Hatchett was a 1954 graduate of Florida A&M University and a 1959 graduate of the Howard University law school.

For Dana Williams, a student at FAMU, the possible change is monumental and fitting for the times.

“Naming the courthouse after Hatchett is such a timely movement. It will not only serve as an inspiration for the Tallahassee community but for FAMU and HBCU students as well,” Williams said.

She says that his legacy lives on beyond Tallahassee.

“My grandfather was inspired by his journey and that helped me to continue on such a great path to law,” she said. “In the 11th grade for my Black History Month project, I had to choose someone that wasn’t family that inspired my career path and weirdly enough, I chose Hatchett. So, to see that the courthouse could possibly be named after him is amazing.”

In a statement,  Lawson said Hatchett “continue(s) to inspire the people of Florida.” Lawson is the sponsor of the bill to rename the courthouse and has the support of all of Florida’s members of the House of Representatives, both Democrats and Republicans, during a time when the two parties can agree on almost nothing.

In a press release earlier this month from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, he said that it is an honor to name the building after Hatchett.

In the press release Rubio said, “As a veteran and the first African-American Supreme Court Justice for the State of Florida, Judge Hatchett was a remarkable public servant with a significant tenure on the bench.”

Both Rubio and Senator Rick Scott of Florida agree that Hatchett was a servant to the state and that he is deserving of the honor.

In the same press release, Scott said, “His long and accomplished legal career is inspiring, and Floridians everywhere are grateful for his contributions to our state and our country.”