The Florida Bar Solo & Small Firm Section member spotlight is on Gerald B. Stewart of Jacksonville, a solo practitioner who focuses in the areas of bankruptcy, probate and guardianship. Gerald earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Florida College of Law in 1979 and has the distinction of being included in “Florida’s First Black Lawyers (1869-1979),” part one of two publications by the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter NBA that chronicle the rich legacy of Florida’s first black lawyers. (Read more about Florida’s First Black Lawyers in The Florida Bar News at this link: https://bit.ly/2JfEQtA)
Gerald worked with the State Attorney's Office for the Fourth Judicial Circuit until 1985, when he went into private practice and formed the Law Offices of Gerald B. Stewart. He has handled more than 2,300 bankruptcy cases and more than 1,000 probate and guardianship cases.
Several of his cases have made new law and have been published in the Southern Second Reporter. He attributes much of his professional success to his two mentors, Ernest Jackson and the late William Roberts, who are also among “Florida’s First.”
After graduating from high school in 1972, Stewart was admitted to the University of Florida as a part of the Equal Opportunity Program. He majored in history and spent 16 weeks studying in Oxford, Miss., on a Council on Legal Education Opportunity scholarship.
Gerald is a Jacksonville native, the sixth of seven children born to Willie and Maude Stewart. He is married to Betty Stewart, and they have two children, Sabrina and Melanie. He is also an elder at the Chaffee Road Church of Christ. He advises young lawyers to ask questions; seek advice from older lawyers; treat opposing counsel with respect, and when appropriate, focus on kindness, and family—never forget to spend time with family. Read his full spotlight below:
What was your first job? Assistant State Attorney, Fourth Judicial Circuit, 1979.
When did you know you wanted to practice law? Hard to put a date on it. I did not know any lawyers; I had never been to the courthouse. However, my freshman year I did send for a catalog from the U of F Law School and I worked toward it after that time.
Do you have a unique experience that has influenced your professional life? I have had a lot of experiences in 38 years of practice, however, one automatically comes to mind. In my early private practice, I represented a nephew of a high school friend who was facing the death penalty. He ended up taking a plea to 25 years. He is now out of prison and working as a barber. To have helped a young man that I knew as a baby was a unique experience.
I you could have dinner with a celebrity or public figure, who would it be and why? Sidney Poitier, I would like to talk to him about his career in Hollywood.
One thing most people do not know about you is: Most lawyers do not know that I am an Elder in the Church at Chaffee Road Church of Christ. I spend a lot of my time working with the teens and children.
Do you have a favorite quotation? My favorite quotation is my own "Never be too busy to save time." By that I mean don't be too busy to make or return a phone call that may allow you to settle a case.
Who or what inspires you? I am constantly inspired by the Holy Scriptures.
Do you have a favorite activity, sport, hobby or event? I am a movie buff, I watch Turner Classic Movies and Classic Westerns.
What is one place that you would love to visit? For pure enjoyment Hawaii, however because I was a history major I would like to visit Normandy, France.
Family information: My wife of 37 years, Betty (both of us Florida Gators); two daughters, Sabrina Stewart and Melanie Stewart Lee (both Florida State Seminoles); and son-in-law, Rashaan Lee.