Thomas H. Barkdull, Jr. is truly the dean of appellate judges in Florida, having served longer than any other appellate judge. In April 2000, the Florida Legislature recognized his many accomplishments by designating the courthouse in which the Third District sits as the Thomas H. Barkdull, Jr. District Courthouse. Judge Barkdull was instrumental in securing the property on which the courthouse was built and directing the construction of the building. On Judge Barkdull’s thirtieth anniversary on the Court in 1991, the street name at the intersection of Southwest 117th Avenue, where the Third District courthouse is located, was designated “Barkdull Way.”
Judge Barkdull was born in Miami on August 15, 1925. He attended undergraduate school at the University of Tennessee and the University of Florida. During World War II, he served in the United States Army Air Corps. After the war, he returned to his studies and received his law degree from the University of Florida in 1949.
Judge Barkdull practiced law in Miami Beach from the time of his admission to the bar until he was appointed to the Third District in 1961. During his practice, he was a partner with the late Marion E. Sibley, the late Darrey Davis and with the former chief judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, James Lawrence King. While in private practice, he was admitted to the United States Supreme Court, the original Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and several federal district courts. He served as counsel to the Dade County Commission and to the Rules and Calendar Committee of the House of Representatives of the Florida Legislature. He was also a member of the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar.
After his appointment to the Third District in 1961, Judge Barkdull was elected without opposition to the Court in 1966 and 1972, and was retained as a judge in merit retention elections in 1978, 1984 and 1990. He was elected chief judge by his colleagues for several terms from 1963 to 1976. After the courthouse was completed, he declined to be considered for chief judge again. While sitting on the Court, Judge Barkdull also served as chairman of the Florida Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges. He was a member of the Judicial Qualifications Commission for twenty-five years, and served as its chair.
Judge Barkdull was the only person to be appointed to each of the last three Constitutional Revision Commissions, having been nominated by the Florida Supreme Court to the Constitutional Revision Commissions of 1967 to 1968 and 1977 to 1978, and serving as the appointee of the governor from 1997 to 1998. He also was appointed by the Florida Supreme Court as a member of the Special Committee to Implement the Standards for Criminal Justice, the Court Efficiency Committee and the Judicial Council. He was appointed by the governor to the Task Force for the Review of the Criminal Justice and Corrections Systems, created by the 1993 Legislature. He was appointed by the chief justice to the Article V Task Force, created by the 1994 Legislature.
Judge Barkdull is a founding member of the American Inn of Court at St. Thomas University. He has been a guest lecturer at the University of Florida College of Law, the University of Miami School of Law, Stetson University College of Law and the Law School at Yale University. Among his many honors, Judge Barkdull received the Good Government Award from the State Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Distinguished Service Award on two occasions from the Miami Beach Bar Association and the Distinguished Service Award from the Florida Bar Foundation in 1994. In May 2006, Judge Barkdull received the Dade County Bar Association’s Alan R. Schwartz Judicial Excellence Award.
Judge Barkdull retired from active service on the Third District in 1996. In the years that followed, he accepted positions in state government, including service as Florida’s solicitor general and as senior general counsel to the attorney general. Judge Barkdull died on July 13, 2010. He is survived by his wife, Bettie, and one son, Thomas H. Barkdull III, who is a Circuit Court judge in Palm Beach County, and two granddaughters.
Resolution in Memory of the Honorable Thomas H. Barkdull, Jr.