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Governor, judge, editor and clerk

Henry Mitchell held numerous jobs over his career, but he was best known for his generosity.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 9, 2002

Don't let Henry Mitchell's famously foreboding face fool you. He was a highly regarded judge and politician who found favor with voters on several occasions.

He was also famously generous. Once, at a trial in Key West, a fistfight broke out between opposing counsel. Mitchell slapped each lawyer with a $50 fine. When he learned that one lawyer was broke, Mitchell spotted him the $50.

Born in 1831 near Birmingham, Ala., Mitchell arrived in Tampa as a youth. Admitted to a law practice at 18, he went on to become County Solicitor and editor of the weekly newspaper Florida Peninsular. He also served in the Florida Legislature. In 1877 he was appointed Circuit Judge for the Sixth Judicial Circuit.

Mitchell was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1888 and served until 1891, when he was elected governor. After his gubernatorial term, he assumed the relatively modest position as clerk of the circuit court. In that same year, 1901, he was voted president of the Tampa Bar Association.

He died in 1903. The school bearing his name opened in 1915.

-- Source: Mitchell Elementary

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