Jefferson B. Browne

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Jefferson Beale Browne (June 6, 1857–May 4, 1937) was a Justice of the Florida Supreme Court from 1917 to 1925, including service as Chief Justice from 1917 to 1923.

Born in Key West, Monroe County, Florida,[1] to businessman and politician Joseph Beverly Browne and Anne (Neives) Browne,[2] Browne's "first job after graduating from high school was as assistant keeper on Fowey Rocks Lighthouse".[3] As a lighthouse keeper, Browne was able to dedicate his long hours of isolation to studying the law.[4] He then received a law degree from the University of Iowa.[5] Browne thereafter had "a hopscotch career", including stints as a "county surveyor, postmaster, city attorney, president of the Florida Senate, U.S. Customs collector at the port of Key West, chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, and chairman of the Florida Railroad Commission".[6] In 1912, Browne wrote a significant history of Key West, Key West: The Old and the New.[4][6]

Browne was "elected to the state Senate in 1890—and became president of the Senate at its first session in April, 1891".[5] While serving in this office, he introduced an 1893 bill to grant Henry Flagler's Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Indian River Railway a charter to extend the railroad to the Florida Keys.[5] In 1904, Browne was elected chairman of the Florida Railroad Commission.[5]

Browne was elected to the Florida Supreme Court in 1916, served from January 2, 1917 to January 1923 as Chief Justice and from January 1923 to May 20, 1925 as an Associate Justice.[1] As a Justice, Browne was particularly concerned with property rights, and avoiding government encroachment on such rights. He wrestled with the concept of prohibition of alcohol, a major political issue during his time on the court, writing of an inclination to support laws addressing the negative effects of alcohol consumption, but ultimately deciding that protecting personal property rights against government interference was an overriding concern.[7]

Browne died in Key West.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Erik Robinson, "Florida Supreme Court Justices: List of Life Dates", Florida Supreme Court Historical Society (June 2010).
  2. ^ Louis Henry Cornish, Alonzo Howard Clark, A National Register of the Society, Sons of the American Revolution, Volume 1 (1902), p. 287.
  3. ^ Love Dean, Lighthouses of the Florida Keys (1998), p. 228.
  4. ^ a b George Walter Born, Historic Florida Keys: An Illustrated History of Key West & the Keys (2003), p. 32.
  5. ^ a b c d Matthiessen, Peter (January 28, 2012). "Jefferson B. Browne: The work is done! Let it speak for itself, now and forever!".
  6. ^ a b Stephanie Murphy-Lupo, All Aboard!: A History of Florida's Railroads (2016), p. 197.
  7. ^ John J. Guthrie, Keepers of the Spirits: The Judicial Response to Prohibition Enforcement in Florida, 1885—1935 (1998), p. 28.

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Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph B. Wall
President of the Florida Senate
Succeeded by
William H. Reynolds
Preceded by
Robert S. Cockrell
Justice of the Florida Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Armstead Brown