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Stetson University College of Law inducts 10 members into Hall of Fame


Contact Frank Klim
Executive Director of Communications
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Gulfport, Fla. – Stetson University College of Law inducted 10 new alumni, faculty and friends into its Hall of Fame recently. The Hall of Fame now includes 28 members.

“All of these individuals have reached the pinnacle of their professions and have affected a profound positive influence on Stetson University College of Law,” said Dean Darby Dickerson.

This year’s inductees include:

William R. Eleazer
Professor William R. Eleazer served 25 years on the faculty of Stetson Law. During his tenure, he built Stetson’s nationally recognized, number one ranked trial advocacy program. The William R. Eleazer courtroom, the nation’s first elder friendly courtroom, was dedicated in his honor on Sept. 16.

E. Harris Drew
Justice Drew, class of 1923, served two decades as a member of the Florida Supreme Court, including two terms as chief justice. He was president of the Florida Bar and Stetson Lawyers Association and winner of Stetson’s Ben C. Willard Award. Justice Drew served on the college’s board of overseers and spearheaded construction projects at the law school.

Ruth Fleet Thurman
Over three decades of students at Stetson Law have worked with and learned from Professor Ruth Fleet Thurman. Thurman, class of 1963, holds the distinction of the being the first female tenured professor at Stetson University College of Law and she was the only woman in her spring 1963 graduating class. Thurman was also the first female assistant state attorney in Florida’s 6th Judicial Circuit.

William J. Clapp
In the early 1950s, William J. Clapp played a pivotal role in convincing Stetson University trustees and President Ollie Edmunds that St. Petersburg/Gulfport would be an ideal place to relocate the College of Law. Clapp helped organize a community fundraising campaign in the area to help make the move financially possible for Stetson.

Gardner W. Beckett Jr.
Gardner Beckett, class of 1957, was a celebrated civil rights attorney. During his legal career, he donated countless hours of legal representation through the American Civil Liberties Union and was recognized with the Nelson Poynter Award, Florida’s highest award in civil liberties. He won three cases for the ACLU before the U.S. Supreme Court. Beckett served on the Stetson Law board of overseers and as an adjunct professor of law. In 1967, Beckett became president of the board of directors for the Stetson University Law Center Foundation, later known as the Dana Law Center Foundation. He was a member of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners and the Pinellas County Committee of 100.

Murray Sams Jr.
During his career, Murray Sams Jr., class of 1949, was one of our nation’s finest trial lawyers. He was a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a board member of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, president of the International Society of Barristers and the Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education, and a member of numerous other legal organizations.
Over the years, Sams was a generous donor to Stetson, sharing his time, energy and talents to help launch numerous education programs. He served as a member of the College of Law Board of Overseers and the Charles A. Dana Law Foundation.

Mary Stewart Howarth-Hewitt
Mary Stewart Howarth-Hewitt, class of 1908, was the first woman in Florida to attend law school and earn a law degree. She was admitted by the Florida Supreme Court to practice on June 20, 1908. She supported Stetson throughout her life and taught constitutional law at the school on a part-time basis.

James T. Russell
James T. Russell, class of 1954, was elected to the Florida Legislature in 1958 and served for six years. He also served as a judge for several municipalities and as Gulfport City Attorney. In 1965, Russell became an assistant state attorney. In 1969, the governor appointed him state attorney for the 6th Judicial Circuit, a position he held until January 1993. In the 1970s, Russell helped create a new prosecution clinic at the College of Law.

Robert E. Jagger
Robert E. Jagger, class of 1958, spent more than three decades as Public Defender for Pinellas-Pasco county. In 1963, Jagger, together with Stetson professor Paul Barnard and 6th Judicial Circuit Senior Judge John Bird, organized the state’s first clinical legal education program at Stetson University College of Law.

Walter Mann
For more than 25 years, Walter Mann was a moving force in the development and progress of Stetson University College of Law. He gave generously of time and resources. He was an organizer of the College of Law Board of Overseers and served as its first president from February 1961 until February 1967. He was later elected treasurer of the board and served from 1969 until his death in August 1981.