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Pine View’s Claire Critchett Wins Florida Governor’s Black History Month Essay Contest

The following award-winning essay was written by Claire Critchett. Claire was the only middle school student in the state of Florida to win this essay contest. She received a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by Florida Prepaid College Foundation.

Please click here for the official press release from the Governor’s Office.


Public service is the backbone of our country, states, cities, and neighborhoods. It keeps us moving forward. William Henry Hastie was a revolutionary public servant who persevered through many difficulties. He attended many prestigious schools including Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1930. Hastie was the first black federal judge, governor of a U.S. territory and held the highest judicial position for a black man at the time.

First, Hastie was the first black federal judge in the United States. His federal career began in 1933 in the department of the interior. In 1936, he, along with many legislators from the Virgin Islands, wrote the Organic Act, establishing American government for the Virgin Islands, helping the citizens transition from Danish Law. He worked in the department of the interior for many years until Harold Ickes recommended him for a position as judge. Jessie Carney Smith, author of Black Heroes, writes, “In 1936, Harold Ickes, secretary of the interior, submitted Hastie’s name to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Ickes nominated Hastie for a seat on the United States District Court in the Virgin Islands.” (Smith 308).  Hastie encountered racial opposition in America but was confirmed on March 19, 1937. He served for two years, then left to teach at Howard University. He taught law for a year and became a civilian aide to the secretary of war under Roosevelt.  Hastie held many federal positions, including being the first black to be a federal judge. Hastie broke many racial barriers and helped make America a better place.

Next, Hastie became the first black governor of a U.S. territory. Smith elaborates, saying, “In 1946 after a recommendation from an old friend, Harold Ickes… Hastie once again became a candidate for a government post. This time he was under consideration… as the first black governor of the Virgin Islands.” (Smith 310). Once again, he surpassed many obstacles and was confirmed by the Senate on May 1, 1926. Hastie served as governor for the Islands for many years until he was given a seat on the Third United States Circuit Court of Appeals, making him the highest-ranking black judicial official at the time. Hastie served as a governor and chief judge for several years until he retired at the age of sixty-six.

In closing, William Henry Hastie was an inspirational public servant. He was an amazing role model for many others as a judge, governor, and teacher. Hastie was, as Harold Ickes said, “... not only an excellent lawyer but a man of fine character and sensibilities...” (Smith 308). He cared about the well-being of other people and worked hard his whole life to make sure everyone received the good or bad things they had rightfully earned. Hastie broke many prejudices to become the first black federal judge, governor of the Virgin Islands, and to hold the highest judicial position of any black man of his time. Hastie was an extraordinary public servant and a fascinating man.


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