Courthouse to Have Late Judge's Name; Simpson Made Bold Civil Rights Decisions

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PINKHAM, The Times-Union

Jacksonville's new federal courthouse will be named for a former federal judge whose bold civil rights decisions in the 1960s shaped desegregation of schools and public places across Florida.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown used a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation decision Monday to announce she will introduce legislation this week to name the courthouse after the late Judge Bryan Simpson.

"He integrated not only Duval County's school system but also Daytona's and Orlando's," Brown, D-Fla., said during the noon ceremony at Florida Community College at Jacksonville's North Campus.

Brown and U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., will co-sponsor the legislation, which is unlikely to face serious opposition in Congress.

Simpson's name was picked from a list of 20 nominees reviewed by a committee Brown appointed to help with the selection process. They made the right choice, said Sam Jacobson, a lawyer who worked in Simpson's courtroom both as a young federal prosecutor and later in private practice.

"Bryan Simpson was the giant of the federal legal system in Jacksonville in the 20th century. He personified the federal courts in this area from the period of the '50s into the '80s," Jacobson said. "He was a person of huge courage as far as racial matters were concerned and had just an exquisite sense of fairness."

As a U.S. district judge, Simpson, a Kissimmee native, ordered Duval County schools desegregated in 1962 and also desegregated the Jacksonville zoo, city pools and city golf courses. He overturned St. Augustine's ban on nighttime civil rights marches after hearing testimony from civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in Jacksonville.

"His decisions both in public accommodations and education were the models for decisions after that," said Jacksonville lawyer Wayne Hogan, a member of the selection committee. …