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Lee County Justice Center dedicated to Judge Isaac Anderson Jr.

“It is true that when you focus your attention, when you set a goal, that you reach this goal, this county will acknowledge that,” Audrea Anderson said. “And that’s what happened today.”

Lee County held a dedication ceremony of the justice center in memory of the late Judge Isaac Anderson Jr., the first African American judge in the county.

Anderson was born and raised in Fort Myers, having graduated from Dunbar High School. After a year at Allen University, he volunteered to join the Air Force and served a tour of duty in Vietnam. Anderson was honorably discharged in 1968 and went on the earn a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies at Miami University and received a law degree in Washington D.C. at American University.

Upon returning to Fort Myers, Anderson opened a law office on Main Street and practiced general civil and criminal defense work. When Anderson stood for election to be county judge in 1982, he won with 79% of the vote. He then was elected to the circuit court in 1990 and served as the Circuit Judge of the 20th Judicial Circuit until he passed away in 2007.

“(Anderson) developed a reputation for being tough but fair, he maintained a strong presence in his courtroom by requiring strict decorum and dress behavior,” Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman said. “He abided by a simple principle: treat others the way you would wish to be treated.”

It was Hamman’s idea to name the courthouse in honor of Anderson’s legacy. Last year Hamman got an opportunity to take a tour of the Black History Museum in Fort Myers and the person giving the tour spent a lot of time talking about the judge.

“While he’s somebody that I didn’t know, I think it’s important for this generation to look back at previous generations and recognize the figure who stood out and made a huge contribution,” Hamman said.

The ceremony included many testimonials from those who worked alongside Anderson, including Chief Judge Michael McHugh, State Attorney Amira Fox and Public Defender Kathy Smith.

Anderson’s widow, Audrea Anderson, expressed how she feels this dedication is a step in promoting further inclusivity and diversity in Lee County.

“I’d like to say that this honor goes beyond Judge Anderson, it goes to the heart of the black community,” Anderson said. “As I look around and see so many groups represented, my heart is full because you have come to show all of us, and especially the elected officials, that we know you believe that we matter as a people.”

When Judge Anderson passed away, he had the lowest reversal rate on appeal of any judge in the state of Florida at less than 3%, according to his son Justin Anderson.

“This area was blessed with having my father as a judge for 30 years because he understood the law and he believed that everybody was entitled to equal protection under the law,” Justin Anderson said.

Justin said he feels that this is a step forward in acknowledging Lee County’s history.

“I mean, Robert E. Lee never came to this area, my father was born here, I’m a fourth generation Fort Myers native,” Justin Anderson said. “That’s what blows me away, is that some people choose to praise people who aren’t even from this area when we have real heroes right here.”

Others at the ceremony said the dedication of the Lee County Justice Center to Judge Isaac Anderson Jr. can be seen as inspiration to many to never stop pursuing goals and dreams.