Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Eugene K. Pettis - First African-American President of The Florida Bar

Eugene K. Pettis - First African-American President of The Florida Bar
The Florida Bar Journal
July/August, 2013 Volume 87, No. 7
by Jan Pudlow

When Eugene Pettis was a little boy, a speech impediment smacked a "K" sound at the start of every word.

Neighbors would tell the other Pettis kids: "Go get your brother," because they wanted to hear Eugene talk for comical entertainment.

Lifelong friend and neighbor Lockey Anderson remembers Eugene called her "Kockey"; her dad Joe, "Koe"; and her mother Shirley, "Kirley."

They laughed, and little Eugene laughed with them.

But his first-grade teacher wasn’t laughing. When school officials said Eugene had to wait until the second grade to receive speech therapy, his first-grade teacher insisted: "No, he’s getting help this year."

Not only did Eugene get into the speech program as a first-grader, he can still remember the green and beige books his mother would lecture him on every night at the dining room table, pronouncing word after word until that "K" sound vanished.

"The neighbors still remember it as if it were yesterday. And now I make a living talking," Pettis said laughing. "Who would have thought that?"

Years later, after building a reputation as a successful civil trial lawyer, commanding the attention of jurors with his deep, sonorous voice, Pettis invited that first-grade teacher, along with his kindergarten teacher, high school basketball coach, and a few other special mentors to his home just to say thanks.

"Life had turned out pretty good for me, and I could look back with clarity and see that those six people, along with many others, had a hand in that," Pettis said. "While I was blessed with a great family, I’ve also been blessed with an even greater community of people."

Now the 52-year-old, co-founding partner at Haliczer, Pettis & Schwamm in Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando becomes The Florida Bar’s first African-American president. He credits God and his strong mother for giving him the confidence at an early age to know he could be whatever he chose to be. Read more here

Introduction to the President: Eugene K. Pettis , President of The Florida Bar, 2013-2014
2013 Florida Bar General Assembly: Installation and Incoming President’s Message 

2013 Florida Bar General Assembly: Incoming President's Message

Congratulations, Eugene K. Pettis, Florida Bar President by Neil Gillespie

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