July 28, 2014

Florida Icon

Icon: Talbot 'Sandy' D'Alemberte

Special council, Hunton & Williams; Florida House of Representatives, 1966-72; Florida State law school dean, 1984-89; president American Bar Association, 1991-92; president FSU, 1994-2003; age 74.

Cynthia Barnett | 3/1/2008

Talbot ‘Sandy’ D’Alemberte [Photo: Ray Stanyard]

» I had an Uncle Talbot Whitfield. And when I was a little boy I had quite sandy-colored hair.

» We lived in this wonderful old house directly behind the old Capitol. My grandmother’s porch was about where the state seal is in the state Capitol, where we cleared out all these homes that were every bit as beautiful as those in Savannah and Charleston. We could have had a Capitol center that could have been pretty elegant if we’d kept the homes.

» My father practiced law in Chattahoochee, and a number of his clients were physicians, particularly South American physicians who worked at the hospital while waiting to be admitted to practice in the state of Florida. Chattahoochee was a remarkable community in a sense that people were very well-educated, and it was very international compared to surrounding north Florida.

» We lived on the grounds of the hospital. If you’ve seen the old wards at Chattahoochee, they were these terrible places, extremely large, three or four stories tall, open balconies with screening so people would be in the fresh air, but they would be standing staring at this wire. Nobody felt very good about the way the state was handling these places, including the administration of the hospital. It was like modern times — they kept advocating for more money to take care of these patients, and the Legislature was pretty neglectful.

» During my formative years, Gov. Collins was such an important figure. He and Mary Call were friends of my family. I don’t think anybody stands out above Gov. Collins in the capacity to grow, to learn, to be articulate on important issues and to care a great deal about ordinary people.

» After I decided I would not become a minister, I decided to be a lawyer. I’m still nominally an Episcopalian, but I don’t believe very strongly. My skepticism has grown over the years. Just thinking about world religions, reading a lot, and understanding that an awful lot of what passes for Christian doctrine is improbable.

» Abstract thoughts like the rule of law do have a pull on me. The need for people to speak out against clearly unjust conditions meant that having free speech was important to our society in ways that really surpassed other freedoms.

» I wore a bow tie occasionally in college, but it really began when I was dean (of FSU’s law school). Generally, when I was growing up, a lot of people were wearing bow ties — in modern times, John Paul Stevens, who I came to know. I think Stevens may have been the ultimate influence on me to get me to go more regular to bow ties.

» (Opening courtrooms to cameras) has been very disappointing from the standpoint of the use made of it by news media. I continue to believe it was a very good thing in opening up and bringing judges to understand that they ought to be operating in a very visible, public way. But in terms of the commercial broadcast stations or even the public stations, I believe they’ve squandered an opportunity to use that material in a way that would be both educational and civic.

» I see activism, but I don’t find it where other people seem to find it. Was Bush vs. Gore political activism? The Supreme Court decision to even enter that case is puzzling. I find particularly judges appointed in recent years often have a political agenda, and I really regret that.

» At some point I decided that I was not equipped by temperament to be a judge. I feel quite passionately about things. I would not have felt comfortable administering the death penalty. I enjoyed my role as an advocate and still do.

» I really admired good architecture, and I came to despise the kinds of things that happened on many college campuses. A lot of it happened just after Sputnik. We suddenly got all this money to construct science buildings and dormitories, and we built the ugliest structures imaginable.

» The continued degradation of resources has left higher education in terrible trouble. I feel like we’re doing a great job for honors students and not so good for other students, except for some colleges.

» I actually favored the trustees board of Jeb Bush. I thought at the time there would be the possibility of bringing in very, very good, strong people who would be advocates for the university and were knowledgeable about university education. To the extent that’s happened, it’s worked well. But ... we’ve not always brought in strong advocates of higher education, but have brought in people whose interests were the athletic program or narrower.

» I came to be a believer that a strong athletic program could help the university. But the time it takes is just incredible. I came to have not a very good opinion of most agents. Sports agents as a group of people are not my favorite people.

» Particularly in my international human rights class, I hope they come to understand how important human rights principles are, not just for the world, but how important for our country. We’ve over the years had a reputation as being a place that really encouraged respect for human rights, and I fear that we’ve lost it in the last seven years.

Tags: Politics & Law, Florida Icon, Government/Politics & Law

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