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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Alachua County commission renames courthouse after late Judge Stephan Mickle

The commission voted unanimously to rename the courthouse after Mickle

Judge Stephan P. Mickle will now be known not only as a trailblazer for Black students at UF, but as the namesake for the Alachua County Courthouse.

The Alachua County Commission voted unanimously last Tuesday to rename the Alachua County Criminal Courthouse to Judge Stephan P. Mickle Sr. Criminal Courthouse. The new name honors Judge Stephan Mickle, the first Black undergraduate alumnus at UF and the second to graduate from UF’s Levin College of Law. Mickle died of cancer on Jan. 26 at age 76. This is the second effort to memorialize the judge after the Commission proclaimed Feb. 13 as Judge Stephan P. Mickle, Sr. Day.

This decision comes from a prior county commission meeting on Feb. 2 that directed the County Manager to put together a resolution and confer with the Chief Judge for the renaming of the courthouse.

The official unveiling of the renamed courthouse will be held in the fall, County Manager Michelle Lieberman said.

According to Alachua County’s website, no cost estimates have been provided by the commission, and there are no funds available for this renaming unless they pull from the board’s reserves.

County Commissioner Mary Alford suggested the courthouse implement a program that allows courthouse employees to learn about the life and legacy of Judge Mickle.

Many of Mickle’s family and friends attended the Alachua County Commission meeting virtually on March 23 to show their support for the renaming of the courthouse. Mickle’s wife, Evelyn Mickle, and their two daughters attended the March 23 Alachua County Commission meeting over Zoom.

County Commissioner Charles Chestnut said he knew Mickle for the majority of his own life.

“He’s been a role model to all of the young African American males in Alachua County. He was not only a great role model, but a great attorney and judge,” Chestnut said. “It’s fitting, and I think it’s appropriate that we honor him this way.”

“We appreciate the consideration and, on behalf of our family, we thank you so much,” Mickle’s eldest daughter Stephanie said.

Mickle was also the first Black person to establish a law practice in Alachua County, and he became the first Black Alachua County judge in 1979. Years later, in 1993, he became the first Black federal judge in the First District Court of Appeal.

In 1998, Mickle was nominated by Former President Bill Clinton and approved to become a federal judge in the U.S. District Court at the Northern District of Florida.

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During the virtual meeting, Avery McKnight, a 55-year-old Gainesville attorney, said Mickle’s life accomplishments make him a worthy namesake of the courthouse.

As a close family friend, McKnight recalled Mickle’s patience with him as a child and encouragement of his ambitions as an aspiring lawyer. McNight said he idolized Mickle back then in the same way children idolize Former President Barack Obama now.

“Later in life, Judge Mickle would write every letter I needed to get into law school,” McKnight said. “He actually swore me into the Florida Bar while he served as a judge in Tallahassee.”

Mickle is the reason McKnight now serves as a partner with the Allen Norton & Blue law firm in Tallahassee, he said.

Philip Kabler, president of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association, joined the meeting to express his approval of renaming the courthouse after Mickle. He said this decision will preserve Mickle’s memory for the community.

“He has left quite a legacy. A legacy of equity and fairness,” Kabler said. “I think that renaming the courthouse in his honor is really quite a monument and specifically a monument of fairness.”

Contact Jiselle Lee at jlee@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @jiselle_lee.

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Jiselle Lee

Jiselle Lee is a freshman journalism student and a news assistant for the Independent Alligator. She loves trying new restaurants around Gainesville in her free time.


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