Judge Thomas M. Langston
November 27, 1919 - September 11, 1997

By Susan Roberts
Circuit Judge

Almost every encounter I had with Judge Langston was memorable. For instance, the first contested hearing I had as a lawyer was with Judge Langston. Much later, when he retired, several of us Judges asked for the sign that he had displayed in his office which reads “Illegitimi Non Carborundum”. He awarded it to me with instructions to pass it on to Judge Charles B. Curry when I die.

It’s amazing the errata that sticks in your memory. For instance, it took Judge Langston longer to say my first name than any other person I ever met. Something on the order of Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuusan”.

Judge David Langford said that he always enjoyed working with Judge Langston. He said they always kidded about placing the blame for any mistake one of them made on the other. Judge Langford says he figured any confusion about their names should go to Judge Langston.

Jerry Hill, State Attorney, says he recalls Judge Langston as patient and kind and very decisive as a trial Judge. Jerry recalls that Judge Langston was one of the criminal Judges when he first started practicing law. He says that he needed Judges to be kind to him.

Judge Mike Hunter remembers Judge Langston as a true gentleman. He said that the good Judge treated baby lawyers the same as he treated lawyers who had practiced in front of him for years. He fondly recalls the Judge as the first one he appeared before as a civil trial lawyer.

Judge Curry remembers that if you had a hearing on Wednesday with Judge Langston that ran until noon you had better be ready to go to Breton’s to eat chicken and dumplings. He recalls that Judge Langston was his first Chief Judge and that he always looked after him and kept him from making any huge mistakes. Dan Brawley recalls how much Judge Langston loved his daughter Laura. After she died in April, 1989, Judge and Mrs. Langston dedicated to her memory a fountain in the courtyard of First Presbyterian Church of Lakeland.

Judge McDonald recalls Judge Langston’s delightful sense of humor and his ever present willingness as a retired Judge to help other Judges by taking their dockets. Judge Langston kept his robe in Judge McDonald’s office which Randy will present to Scott Langston.

Bob Chambers said he had worked with Judge Langston since he was a Judge of the Criminal Court of Record and he was a Parole Officer. He said the Judge influenced him in mighty ways-even to encourage him to go to law school! Bob said that he still appreciates the Judge being a reference on his Application to take the Bar.

Judge Jacobson says he remembers Judge Langston as even tempered and friendly. He recalls that he tried several cases with Judge Langston and that he was unflappable and pleasant even in ruling against him.

Bill Corda remembers trying several cases with Judge Langston and recalls that it was always a very pleasant experience.

Susan Best, the Deputy Court Administrator, fondly recalls his dry sense of humor. She had quite a bit of contact with Judge Langston in the last several years.

Dale Edwards remembers that when she was a Court Reporter and worked with Judge Langston he always remembered to talk slow enough so that the record would be complete. She recalls him as a considerate person. She called him “a sweetie”.

Pam Morris recalls that Judge Langston was a compassionate person who always laughed at her jokes and brought her rum balls in June.

Judge Kornstein recalls that his first jury trial was with Judge Langston and against now Judge Raiden. (It was a tie!) He says his temperament was calm and gentle. He never heard him get upset. The thing he most remembers was his gentleness with all the people who appeared in his Courtroom.

Judge Raiden remembers Breton’s, the gathering place for people who worked in the Courts for years. He said that when Breton’s closed the Tribune ran an article on its last day and included a picture of the ‘regulars’ which included Judge Langston. Mike said Wednesday was chicken and dumpling day at Breton’s. That was Judge Langston’s favorite and that he and his friends were never late for Wednesday’s special.

Judge Raiden remembered the following exchange between Judge Langston and Doug Brinkemeyer in the courtroom:
Judge: Dooooooug your barber die?
Doug: No.
Judge: Here’s $2.00 to get your hair cut.
Doug: You can’t get a hair cut for $2.00.
Judge: Probably could the last time you got one.

Chip Thullbery, in Jerry Hill’s office, recalls that Langston was his first Felony Judge. He said, “I am most struck with his unfailing civility and the fact that he treated everyone with dignity and patience.”

Susan Wadsworth Roberts served many years with Judge Langston and currently serves as Circuit Court Judge for Polk County, Florida.

Reprinted from the Lakeland Bar Newsletter