CLAS Graduate Stephan P. Mickle Appointed Federal Judge, Designated Distinguished UF Alumnus
Only one thing crossed Stephan Mickle's mind when he found out he'd been admitted to the University of Florida as a sophomore transfer in 1962: "Oh my Lord, what have I gotten myself into now?" Accepting UF's offer meant becoming one of seven black students to integrate Florida's undergraduate programs. A daunting task, admits Mickle, but one he felt he couldn't turn his back on. "Once the ball was in my court, I knew I had a responsibility to hit it."
And what a hit. After becoming the first African American to earn a degree from a UF undergraduate program (Political Science in 1965), the Gainesville-raised Mickle got a master's in education (1966) and then became the second African American to graduate from Florida's law school (1970). Subsequently, he became the first black lawyer to practice in Alachua County and to be appointed both county judge (1979) and 8th Judicial Circuit judge (1984). In 1992 he left Gainesville for Tallahassee's First District Court of Appeal. "There had never been another lawyer from Gainesville--black or white--to ever sit on the First District Court, so I considered that a very high honor and privilege," says Mickle, who with his wife of thirty years, Evelyn Moore Mickle (UF Nursing, '67), has three grown children.
Mickle's distinguished career recently took another turn. In 1997 Senator Bob Graham recommended him for a federal judgeship in Florida's Northern District, and in 1998, after sailing through mandatory Attorney General and FBI investigations, Mickle was officially nominated for the position by President Bill Clinton. Florida Senators Graham and Connie Mack worked together in an impressive bipartisan effort to quickly get Mickle's nomination in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee (it's not uncommon for such nominations to sit unheard indefinitely, sometimes until they've expired). On May 20, 1998, Mickle was unanimously approved by the committee. Although technically sworn in on June 22, a formal investiture ceremony, attended by Senator Graham and three courtrooms full of family, friends and colleagues, was held on August 28. "It was a very nice homecoming," says Mickle of the festive, personalized event. "I enjoyed the work in Tallahassee," he adds with a smile, "but it's tough being a Gator up there. I'm glad to be back in Gator country."
As icing on his homecoming cake, in January UF President John Lombardi announced that Mickle will be honored as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Florida at the May 1999 Commencement Ceremony. Lombardi declared that "through his accomplishments and service" Judge Mickle has brought "honor and prestige" to his alma mater.
And just what does being a Gator mean to the honorable Mickle? "I attribute a great deal of what I've accomplished to the fact that I made that decision to attend UF as an undergraduate and a law student," he says. "I met so many people, so many contacts--other UF and law school grads--and I think that goes a long way."
Mickle considers his CLAS experience invaluable, too. "Quite frankly, CLAS helped me appreciate not only math and science but the humanities; I love reading literature and poetry and exploring new ideas. This exposure has helped me to see different points of view and to understand different cultures, which, in turn, has aided me in handling cases and making rulings. I credit a Liberal Arts and Sciences education with making me a better person both professionally and personally."