Monday, September 29, 2008

RIP Joe Eaton

I never really knew Joe Eaton, but everyone always says such nice things about him... Sadly, we've lost another one of the old guard. If you have a good story about Judge Eaton, please post them in the comments.

From the Palm Beach Post:


The U.S. district judge who ruled to integrate Palm Beach County's public schools died on Sunday, leaving behind a sea of accomplishments that focused on serving others.
Joe Eaton saw everyone as equal, no matter the color of one's skin, because that's what he learned growing up on a watermelon seed farm in northern Florida. Those teachings stuck with him for the rest of his life, said Janet Eaton Sherr, the youngest of Mr. Eaton's three children.

"We were taught as children the importance of equality in life," said Sherr, of Boca Raton, who is also a member of the Boca Raton Airport Authority.
After Mr. Eaton's ruling to integrate schools in 1973, a man tried to kill him, Sherr said, by trying to strangle him in his truck. Mr. Eaton, who at the time was about 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds, managed to take control and call police. But even then, he didn't regret his decision of bringing equality to all students.
Mr. Eaton accomplished so much in his 88 years, it's difficult for his daughter to even know where to start. "He's just done so many things," Sherr, 58, said.
In 1967, he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to take the U.S. District Court seat in the Southern District of Florida. He was a state senator, an assistant state attorney and a captain and a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He eloped with his then-17-year-old bride, Patricia Eaton, before joining the military, where he earned honors including the Purple Heart, Sherr said.
Patricia and Joe Eaton were married 66 years. He died in his sleep in their home at the East Ridge Retirement Village near Miami.
He spent his free time fishing and boating on the Peace River in Arcadia, Fla., where he owned a second home. At the East Ridge Retirement Village outside of Miami, where he and Patricia lived, he sang in the chorus and was chairman of the town council.
He had six grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and At the age of 81, Mr. Eaton wrote his first and only book about his time in the war and named it Tiger Stripe.
"I could tell my dad everything," Sherr said through tears. "I lost a best friend along with a dad."
A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday at the First United Methodist Church of South Miami. The family will receive guests at 6:30 p.m. Friday at 9881 SW 103rd St., Miami.

1 comment:

Joe Crankshaw said...

Judge Joe Eaton was a B-26 pilot during World War II. For those who don't know, that was a very sensitive plane subject to just falling out of the sky, but he survived it and had many great tales to tell when we could chat in the Federal Courthouse in Miami. The best story I have involved a series of hearings involving some Cubans who were bending the neutrality laws to fight Castro. They were arrested, and the Assistant U.S. Attorney was fighting to keep them in jail without bail. Theuir defense attorney was raising the habeas corpus issue. "But you honor," protected the prosecutor, "They are just talking technicalities."
Eaton leaned back in his chair, we were in his chambers, and looked at the young attorney. "You are right," said the judge, "if the U.S. Constitution is a technicality." The argument ended there and they went out on bond, later to be freed by a jury. He was a fascinating guy to cover, but then so were all the others judge back in the '60s and '70s. Joe Crankshaw, formerly with The Miami Herald