Like all males entering college in the fall of 1965, I faced an immediate decision concerning my future and the military. The Vietnam war had begun to escalate the previous spring, with the entry of the Marines at Danang.
At certain land grant universities, ROTC was mandatory for all males during the first two years. However, at Stetson University, in DeLand, Florida, where I attended, it was purely voluntary. Although there were ways to “catch up” with ROTC if you didn’t begin immediately in your freshman year, beginning “at the beginning” was clearly the optimal course. With the draft securely in place, the ROTC route seemed the wisest course, so I joined.
While at Stetson, I became involved in journalism and was elected (by a margin of 5 votes out of a thousand cast) as editor of the student newspaper. I interned in my congressman’s office in Washington during the summer of 1967, and completed ROTC summer camp at Fort Bragg during the summer of 1968.
As my studies at Stetson continued, it was clear that journalism was my primary interest, but unfortunately Stetson did not have a journalism major. The University of Florida, in Gainesville, did then, and still does, have one of the preeminent journalism, broadcasting, and communications undergraduate programs in the country. I completed by degree at Stetson in December, 1968, and immediately enrolled at UF in January, 1969. Because of my political science major at Stetson, I earned by journalism degree at UF in August, 1969, and also completed my ROTC classes, earning my commission in the Signal Corps.
For non-scholarship ROTC graduates, the required active duty commitment was two years. I entered active duty in October, 1969, completing the Signal Officers Basic Course at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and another course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before assignment to Fort Hood, Texas, with my orders reading “for ultimate assignment to an unaccompanied short tour area” which was Army-speak for Vietnam.
At Fort Hood, I was assigned to the Public Information Office and helped edit The Armored Sentinel, the civilian enterprise publication with the editorial content being provided by the Army, and the advertising being sold by the local private newspaper.
While at Fort Hood, it dawned on me that I would have 4 years of educational benefits when I left the Army. Although I was interested in newspaper management, I concluded that law school would be the best investment of my post-army education. I took the LSAT and submitted my application to UF law school before leaving for Vietnam.
Right on schedule, I received my orders for Vietnam, to depart in October 1970, so that the expiration of my tour there, and the end of my two year active duty commitment would coincide. In Vietnam, I was assigned to the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal) in Chu Lai. I edited the the Division newspaper The Southern Cross, among other assignments. I received my admission letter from UF law, which made my time in Vietnam considerably less stressful, knowing what I would be doing as soon as I was discharged.
In the spring of 1971, cutbacks had begun, and I received a two-month “early out”, so that I would leave Vietnam in August, and immediately begin law school.
Shortly after arriving in Gainesville, my life took an very positive turn, as I met Martha, a graduate student in counselor education. We were married in August 1972, and will soon celebrate our 47th anniversary. Martha retired as the principal of a large high school in Tallahassee in 2009. We are the proud parents of two adult children and several beautiful and talented grandchildren.
As did many veterans of that era, I went straight through law school, attending 4 quarters per year, and graduated in December 1973. I immediately began work at the law school as an assistant dean, with responsibilities in teaching legal ethics, placement, and alumni affairs. After the normal two-year course of that job, I entered practice in Tallahassee in July 1976.
As the years went by, my practice narrowed and for the last 30 years was dedicated exclusively to representing the automobile and truck manufacturers in litigation against their own dealers. This litigation focused on the establishment and relocation of dealerships, as well as termination and disputes concerning the sale of dealerships.
After teaching legal ethics at UF, I served on the Florida Commission Ethics, including a year as chair, hearing disputes concerning the alleged misdeeds of all public employees, with the exception of judges. I served as a hearing officer in several cases and authored recommended orders for consideration by the full Commission.
Later, I served for 8 years as one of two lawyers (along with 10 judges) on the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, which received ethical inquiries from state court judges and issued opinions guiding judges on their ethical responsibilities under the Code of Judicial Conduct.
After release from the Army in 1971, I had no further contact with the military until, in 2010, I received the dreaded call from my urologist advising me that I had prostate cancer. I learned that prostate cancer is a service-connected condition for those who served in Vietnam because of our exposure to Agent Orange.
Although approximately two-thirds of men with the disease are cured as a result of their first surgical, radiation, or other treatment, I was among the one-third whose disease was not cured, and it returned to activity in 2014. Since that time, I have received excellent care at the VA hospital in Atlanta for the disease, and a myriad of urinary, kidney, and other side effects.
I began to cut back on my law practice in 2015, and fully retired at the end of 2017. I intended to provide pro bono legal services for veterans during my retirement, and started doing that through the Tallahassee Veterans Legal Cooperative. However, the fatigue side effects associated with my medical condition prevented me from being able to commit to being available to my clients where and when they needed me, so I was unable to continue those efforts.
I found Service2School through the internet, and served for a period of time as its volunteer general counsel. I also served as a JD ambassador and have assisted service members who seek to attend law school.
Martha and I divide our time between Tallahassee in the winter and the North Carolina mountains in the summer.