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William Glenn Terrell: Wikis


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William Glenn Terrell (1877-January 12, 1964) was an Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, from 1923-1964 and a virulent segregationist who admired Adolf Hitler. During the time of his tenure on the Florida Supreme Court, he served as Associate Justice and as Chief Justice. His 41-year tenure was the longest of any judge on that body. He was succeeded on the Court by Richard W. Ervin.


Early Life and Education

William Glenn Terrell was born in Daleville, Mississippi about 1877. In the 1880s, he moved from Daleville to Bushnell, Sumter County, Florida, north of Tampa, with his parents, Rev. William Henry Terrell and Lizzie Crawford Terrell. His father was the pastor of the original Bushnell Presbyterian Church, while his mother taught children in her home and then at the first school there.[1]

Glenn Terrell began teaching when a young man and went to college to further his preparation as a teacher. He studied at Jasper Normal Institute in Jasper, Florida, and Georgia Normal College and Business Institute in Abbeville, Georgia.[2]

In 1903, when he was about 25, Glenn Terrell earned his law degree, an LL.B., from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. Over the years, he also studied or took professional courses at the University of Florida, Harvard University and the University of Chicago.[3]


In 1903, Terrell was admitted to the Bar of Florida[4] and entered private practice in Sumter County, Florida. From 1910 to 1913, he represented Sumter County in the Florida House of Representatives, then served in the Florida Senate from 1915 to 1917.

In 1923, he was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court. He began service May 15, 1923 and continued until January 12, 1964.[5] He served several terms as Chief Justice during his tenure, the longest on record.[6]

In State of Florida ex. rel. Virgil D. Hawkins, Relator v. Board of Control, 93 So. 2d 354 (Fla. 1957), a case refusing a black man admittance to the University of Florida law school because the authorities feared they could not prevent illegal activity, Chief Justice Terrell wrote that he apparently considered Adolf Hitler a more honorable authority than the United States Supreme Court, and systems where groups of people were enslaved, denied freedom or discriminated against on the basis of race or origin as admirable, saying:

"Some anthropologists and historians much better informed than I am point out that segregation is as old as the hills. The Egyptians practiced it on the Israelites; the Greeks did likewise for the barbarians; the Romans segregated the Syrians; the Chinese segregated all foreigners; segregation is said to have produced the caste system in India and Hitler practiced it in his Germany, but no one ever discovered that it was in violation of due process until recently and to do so some of the same historians point out that the Supreme Court abandoned the Constitution."


In May 1962, Justice Terrell was honored several times. Cumberland University awarded him a citation as "An outstanding citizen, an Honored and Revered Member of the Florida Bar and the Florida Supreme Court," and Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.[7]

At his death in 1964, he was remembered by legal colleagues: "On Sunday, January 12, the lawyers of Florida lost a warm and devoted friend - Justice Glenn Terrell of the Supreme Court of Florida. The law was his life and he gave unstintingly of his time, talent and energy for the cause of justice and the improvement of our profession." [8]

On May 17, 1982, an Oral History Dinner remembering the contributions of Justice William Glenn Terrell was held as part of an initiative sponsored by Florida Governor Bob Graham.[9], [10] In addition, the American Inn of Court in Tampa, Florida was named for Justice William Glenn Terrell.


William Glenn Terrell Sr. married Esther Collins on December 24. 1907. [11] Their children were Miriam, Doris, Ruth, and William Glenn Terrell Jr. Both men were usually called Glenn, but are recorded as W. Glenn Terrell Sr. and W. Glenn Terrell Jr. in various documents. The father also was recorded as William Glenn Terrell in some materials, but the son rarely so.


  1. ^ Beginnings of Bushnell Elementary School
  2. ^ [The Florida handbook by Allen Covington Morris, Peninsular Pub. Co., 1959]
  3. ^ Justice Glenn Terrell Collection, Florida State University
  4. ^ [The Florida Bar journal, Volume 33, 1959]
  5. ^ Succession of Justices of the Supreme Court of Florida
  6. ^ "Glenn Terrell Named State Chief Justice", St. Petersburg Times (January 11, 1939), p. 2.
  7. ^ Justice Glenn Terrell Collection, Florida State University
  8. ^ [The Florida Bar journal, Volume 38, 1964]
  9. ^ In the First Person: Florida Governor Oral History Program Files
  10. ^ Florida's Political Past: A Guide to Manuscript Collections
  11. ^ Terrill, Terrell, Tyrell Lines

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