The Alachua County Criminal Courthouse saw a first Friday afternoon when it was renamed after trailblazing Judge Stephan P. Mickle.
Mickle, who died on Jan. 26, 2021, was a man of many firsts during his life and, as each speaker reflected on his accomplishments, one overriding theme stood out—he was a man of honor and dignity both inside and outside the courtroom.
“He made hard decisions, both in life and on the bench,” said Evelyn Mickle, Stephan’s wife of 52 years. “Micah 6:8 became his motto: ‘And what does the Lord require of you? But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.’
“And when he had those kinds of decisions, even though the law may have been clear, he saw that his responsibility was to get that individual that stood before him every opportunity for changing his course or her course in life. For him, it was personal and intentional. He made many friends and supporters, and they honored him and respected him, the man and the authority.”
At the start of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend, hundreds of people turned out to pay respect during the unveiling ceremony, including the judge’’s three children—Stephan Mickle II, Amy Mickle and Stephanie Mickle.
“How did he persevere and accomplish all that he did?” asked Evelyn. “He was forever preparing. He was forever looking up and building bridges and giving back. He was supported, taught, mentored, encouraged and loved by many.”
Eighth Judicial Circuit Judge Mark Mosely presided over the ceremony and speakers included Pastor Timothy Moore, Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman, Alachua County Commission Chair Marihelen Wheeler; family members Stephan Mickle III, Cotie Jones, Amy Mickle, and Christopher Morgan; Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe, retired Eighth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Bradley Harper, Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Judge Louis Sands, U.S. District Court Middle District of Georgia Senior Judge Louis Sands, MLK Jr. Commission of Florida Inc. President Rodney Long, former law partner Rod Smith, Alachua County School Board member Dr. Leanetta McNealy, student essay winner Bella Goodnight and Dr. Randolph Bracey.
The P.K. Yonge Symphonic Band and the Caring and Sharing Learning School provided music for the event.
Alachua County officials moved forward in October with the renaming process and honoring of Mickle through a display at the courthouse.
Mickle’s groundbreaking highlights include:
- One of the first African Americans to integrate the University of Florida undergraduate school in 1962.
- First African American to earn a UF undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Arts in 1963 and Masters in Education in 1966).
- Second African American to graduate from the UF Law School (received his Juris Doctor in 1970).
- First African American to practice law in Alachua County since Reconstruction
- First African American County Court judge in Alachua County (1979)
- The first African American judge in the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida (1984)
- The first African American and only lawyer from the Eighth Judicial to serve on the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee (1993)
- The First African American federal judge in the Northern District of Florida (1998)
- First African American UF graduate to receive the UF Distinguished Alumnus Award (1999)
- The First African American Chief Judge of the Northern District of Florida (2009)
Mickle also served as an adjunct professor at the UF Levin College of Law from 1971 to 2014.