A century of living, 78 years of lawyering.

PositionAttorney Clarence A. Boswell - Testimonial

What Florida attorney has been practicing law even longer than the 75 years the Bar Journal has been in existence?

That would be Clarence A. Boswell, the oldest practicing member of the Bar, who turns 100 on December 6 and still comes to his law office, Boswell & Dunlap, in Bartow, the firm that his father co-founded in 1900 as Wilson & Boswell.

"Mr. B.," as he is affectionately called, was born in Barrow in 1902, the son of a judge when Florida was a backwater state of little more than half a million residents. He became a member of the Bar in 1924, the year Little Orphan Annie made her comic strip debut and Ford was still making Model Ts.

Why does he still wheel his chair into the office not far from the courthouse in Bartow?

"I recognize that I am truly blessed to be able to be active at this time in my life," answered Boswell. "While I let the younger fellows do most of the work, I have many old friends and clients who I can assist because of my knowledge of their affairs and business dealings."

His lawyer son, Clarence A. "Bubba" Boswell, was born in 1927--the year of the first issue of the Journal--and is "quasi-retired," not with his father's firm any longer, but still representing the Polk County School Board.

"One time I said to him, `Daddy, you made enough money. Why don't you stop this foolishness?' And he said, `I'm still burying the mistakes I made 50 years ago!'" Bubba Boswell said with a laugh.

"His mind is still sharp as a tack."

As a little boy, Bubba Boswell would go to his grandfather's and father's law library.

"I loved to read. I also loved the citrus business," said 75-year-old Bubba Boswell. "It was just one thing after another. I kept having more kids and less money. I thought I'd better do something different."

So he went to law school.

"At that time, my dad did not have a partner. I had a tailor, made opportunity, so I took it."

While he called his father "a task master," he is quick to add: "Daddy and I never had a cross word."

He learned a lot about being a lawyer at his father's side.

"When I first started doing some trial work, we represented the railroad (Seaboard Coastline). Daddy said he wanted me to question the train crew. I gat all prepared, and I'm reading all the reports and everything. The first thing I know, they put a witness on. And Daddy said, `All right, you cross-examine.'

"I wasn't ready for that. But that's how I learned trial practice. No warning. Just listen to every word. My father was an excellent trial lawyer."

It was Bubba's grandfather--Judge Clarence A. Boswell--who formed the law firm with Solon G. Wilson at the turn of the century, in a suite of rooms over the Wilson & Bowers dry goods store.

"He was one of these gentlemen, if a story was worth telling, it was worth making it good," Bubba Boswell recalled of his grandfather.

"Mostly, I remember him reminiscing about 0ld Florida. Bartow was apparently a pretty rough town when he first got there. It was just like the old Wild West, with cowboys. Back then Bartow had cows walking up and down the street. If you wanted to keep the cows out of your yard, you fenced your yard, you didn't fence the cows. There were no fence laws until the '30s."

A story his grandfather liked to tell was studying law under a judge and going to Tallahassee to take oral questions before the Florida Supreme Court to pass the bar exam.

"My granddaddy passed. But he said the one guy who went right before him couldn't answer much of the old English law. He said, `Why in the world don't you ask me a question out of the statutes of Florida?' And one of the justices said to him, `If that's all you know, some fool legislator will wipe you out someday."'

Donald H. Wilson, Jr., the grandson of founding partner Solon G. Wilson, practices at what he cells "probably the oldest firm in the state." Wilson described 100-year-old Boswell as "the heart and soul of our practice of law, the lead defense attorney for the railroad in his day, a very well known litigator, and at one time he closed the largest land deal in the state.

"You know, it's good fortune to have longstanding ties like that," Wilson said. "I think maybe we look at our jobs and our relationships with our clients a little differently because of the longevity, and we realize that representing someone is not a one-time short relationship, but we're in it for the long term."

Centenarian Clarence A. Boswell reflected on 78 years of practicing law:

"Money and technology have changed much about the practice of law over the years, but the hallmark of our profession, that we vigorously represent our clients with honesty and integrity, has never changed."

To provide a flavor of the range of voices and issues aired in the Bar Journal in 75 years of publication, here are excerpts from articles since the beginning in 1927 through 2002:

OCTOBER 1927--"constitutional Sabotage," by George Palmer Garrett, of the Orlando Bar:

"It is time to rehabilitate our Constitution. In the day that it was drafted, it was a sturdy instrument. Successive attacks by successive legislatures have, however, left it shell-shocked and only shadows of its original self. It will not endure many more campaigns with the lawmakers.... We shall have to discard it or rewrite it within the next few years. In fact, we ought not to wait. We ought to `do it now.' The reason that we must put it aside is that our legislatures, by and with the consent, or at least, the merely tacit approval, of the courts, have eviscerated it."

JANUARY 1928--"My Experience as a Supreme Court Judge," by William H. Ellis, chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court:

"Assuming that the attorneys and the trial courts are moved by the best motives in preparation and settling of bills of exceptions and sincerely desire to follow the letter and be controlled by the spirit of the rule to the end that the truth may be known, in view of some of the unnecessary, irrelevant, immaterial and utterly inane questions that were propounded and the equally absurd answers given, frequently interspersed with parodical if not frivolous humor, one is more or less disturbed by the thought that counsel's opinion of the Supreme Court's standard of intelligence, concurred in by the trial judge, is not at all flattering if they really consider that all that superfluous and irrelevant matter is indispensible to a correct understanding of the evidence by the Supreme Court.... I believe that in the greater number of cases which reach the Supreme Court, a clear, succinct, statement of the salient points involved in each case may be made on a page of typewritten matter, even in the case of a record of a thousand pages."

APRIL 1932--"New Requirements for Admission to the College of Law of the University of Florida," by George C. Bedell, of the Jacksonville Bar (re: requirement of undergraduate degree):

"The movement has made headway largely because of the natural reluctance of the everyday man to enter the lists in opposition to any measure believed by its proponents to be for the public good. And it may have had some merit at the start. But there seems no end to the thing. The law school course was extended from two years to three years; one year of preliminary college work was added to it; then two, and three, and four.

"Some years back, Simeon E. Baldwin, who was not without experience as a law school teacher, despite his activities as a legal practitioner, appellate judge and statesman, expressed the sentiment `that there should be some chance for a man of 25 to have a wife and home even though he be a member of a learned profession.'

"To the plain-thinking man who has lived his professional life with men who came to the bar about the time they became 21 or 22 years of age, there seems nothing hopelessly reactionary in that proposition. To him, it is but common sense."

MAY 1935--"The Steamboat Home--Presumption as to Order of Death in a Common Calamity," by D.H. Redfearn, who...

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