Henry Latimer: a life remembered

Henry Latimer, Broward County’s first black circuit court judge and an alumnus of the University of Miami law school, died last Monday night in a car accident on I-595 in Broward. He was 67.

Latimer graduated from UM’s School of Law in 1973 and went on to become a distinguished lawyer and judge in the South Florida community.

“He had a presence about him that was almost larger than life,” Dennis Lynch, Dean of the Law School, said. “When talking with him you could almost feel his fairness and sense of justice. He made you feel comfortable and you understood that this was a man you could trust.”

Latimer’s beginnings were humble and reflect a long history of civil rights activism.

Born in Ocilla, Ga., Latimer’s father died before he was born. He grew up on government aid in Jacksonville’s projects, spending his early years in segregated Florida schools.

He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree at Florida A&M University and a master’s degree from Florida Atlantic University. In 1968, Latimer became a U.S. Labor Department investigator, and two years later enrolled in law school at UM.

When he was trying to break into the legal field, Latimer was often rejected by many of the then-segregated law firms, but he persisted and managed to rise to the top of his profession and gain respect from his peers.

Latimer was appointed as Broward County Circuit judge in 1979 by then-Governor Bob Graham. He was elected to a six-year term in 1980 but stepped down in 1983 to work as a lawyer for a local firm.

In the local community, Latimer was dedicated to providing pro bono work. He worked tirelessly to represent clients who could not afford legal services and considered those clients as important as his largest corporate ones. Much of the free work was done in the name of the Laura Latimer Free Legal Clinic, named for his sister who died in 1968 at age 33.

Latimer was also an influence in the University community.

“He was very concerned for the welfare of students, especially minority students, and he served as an advocate for them, making sure that services and financial aid was available for them,” Dr. Patricia Whitely, vice president of Student Affairs, said.

Latimer eventually went on to become a member on the Board of Trustees, but was always available to talk with students.

“He would spend countless hours mentoring students and I always knew if I asked Henry to talk with a student about career opportunities, he would be there for that student,” Lynch said.

Latimer is survived by his wife, Mildred Latimer, 62, and daughters Desiree Latimer, 42, and Tracie Kimreka Latimer, 40.

“‘Lat’ was an inspiration and a friend to all who met him,” Georgie Angones, assistant dean of Alumni Affairs at the Law School, said in a statement. “He will always be remembered for his leadership, compassion and acts of kindness.”

The School of Law will be having a “Celebration of the Life of Henry Latimer” on Thursday, Feb. 24, at 5:00 p.m. For more information, visit www.law.miami.edu/alumni.

Angelique Thomas can be contacted at athomas@miami.edu.