Tillman Pearson was one of the first three judges to be appointed to the Third District. He was born in Wayne County, Georgia in 1913. His parents moved to the rural area of Dade County when he was a child. His father became established as one of the leading educators in the South Florida area. Young Tillman Pearson attended school at the Redland Farm Life School, where his father was principal. He graduated from Dade County Agricultural High School, now known as Miami Edison High School, where he was president of the Student Council.
Judge Pearson left Miami and went to the University of Florida in 1929. He received his A.B. degree and continued on to receive a law degree in 1936, graduating at the top of his class. He was admitted to practice in Florida in 1936.
After completing law school, he returned to Miami and went to work for a law firm headed by George Thompson. After Thompson died, Pearson remained in private practice, sharing space with Francis Miller.
In 1942, Judge Pearson married Mary McCorquodale. Soon thereafter, he joined the Navy, first serving on a minesweeper and later as a personnel officer.
After World War II ended, Judge Pearson returned to Miami and resumed the practice of law. He was elected to the Dade County Bar Association’s Board of Directors, where he served three terms and was elected second vice president in 1949.
His brother, Ray H. Pearson, was a Circuit Court judge in Dade County for many years, and Tillman Pearson’s wife, Mary, encouraged him to become involved in public service as well. He was appointed by Governor LeRoy Collins to the Civil Court of Record, where he served for two years.
Governor Collins appointed Judge Pearson as one of the Third District’s original three judges. When the number of judges on the Third District was increased from three to five, Judge Pearson became the first chief judge of the five-member Court.
Judge Pearson retired from active judicial service in 1980. He continued to sit as an associate appellate judge on periodic assignments by the Florida Supreme Court until 1989. Judge Tillman Pearson served as secretary and as chairman of the Florida Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges. His colleagues in that association, upon Judge Pearson’s completion of thirty-five years of judicial service, issued a resolution in which they recognized his “steadfast devotion to the rule of law, a zealous commitment to the ideals of justice and fairness and unblemished reputation for honor and integrity,” as well as “his unfailing courtesy and compassion for his fellow man, and the spirit of friendship and brotherhood he has exhibited in his association with his colleagues of the bench and bar.”
He later moved back to Fayetteville, in southern Georgia. He passed away on May 8, 2006 at the age of 93. Tillman Pearson was survived by his wife of more than 70 years, Mary, his son James, daughter Holly Pearson Payne and four grandchildren.