Skip to main content

Judge John Milton Bryan Simpson Papers

Identifier: Ms 090

Scope and Content

This collection contains correspondence, newspaper clippings and case briefings. Box 1 contains briefings from civil rights cases in St. Augustine, especially complaints of racial injustice, lack of police protection for demonstrators, and segregation in hospitals, hotels and restaurants. Notable cases include Andrew Young vs. Governor Farris Bryant, regarding the protection of demonstrators in St. Augustine, and Lucille Plummer vs. James Brock (owner of Monson's Motor Lodge) regarding unlawful segregation. Boxes 2 and 3 contain favorable and unfavorable letters about Judge Simpson's rulings; newspaper clippings about the cases; and miscellaneous notes. For biographical information - including photographs in a photo album, speeches, and an audio cassette about the judge - see Box 4. Boxes 5 and 6 contain general correspondence files arranged chronologically from 1950 to 1983. The remaining boxes contain correspondence between the judge and prisoners, typically in regards to appeals. These are arranged alphabetically by last name of prisoner from H-Z. (The correspondence for A-G appears to be missing from the collection.) Boxes 11-12 contain docket papers for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, Jacksonville, dating from 1961 to 1978.


  • Creation: 1933-1983



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

John Milton Bryan Simpson was born in Kissimmee, Florida, on May 30, 1903. He graduated from the University of Florida Law School in 1926. He then moved to Jacksonville, where he ran a private practice and later worked as a judge in the Criminal Court of Record of Duval County from 1939 to 1946. During World War II he worked in France rebuilding local government. In 1950, President Harry S Truman appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. From 1962 to 1966 he served as chief judge for the U. S. District Court Middle District of Florida. He served on the U. S. Court of Appeals from 1966 until his death on August 22, 1987.

Simpson was known for his willingness to "listen to the Supreme Court and the national voice on civil rights and to ignore the local din that would drown it out" (Friedman 1965, 213). This was exemplified by his efforts to ensure the constitutional rights of St. Augustine's Black citizens during a period of racial crisis in the mid 1960s, particularly in 1964. Judge Simpson enforced compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 amongst the city's business owners and law enforcement officers within days of its signing.

Judge Bryan Simpson's career spanned nearly fifty years but his defining work undoubtedly came in St. Augustine in the 1960s. The city was in a state of racial crisis, and while most federal judges at the time resisted the Supreme Court's orders to desegregate, Simpson strove to protect the constitutional rights of Black citizens in St. Augustine.

Source: Leon Friedman (editor), Southern Justice, Pantheon Books, a division of Random House Publishing, New York, 1965.


7 Linear feet (12 boxes)

Language of Materials



Correspondence, newspaper clippings and case briefings of Judge Bryan Simpson.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Judge Bryan Simpson.

Related Material

A related collection held by the University of Florida Smathers Libraries is the Federal Bureau of Investigation St. Augustine Surveillance Files, a collection of photocopies of surveillance records pertaining to the desegregation struggles in St. Augustine and St. John's County from 1963-1967.

A Guide to the Judge John Milton Bryan Simpson Papers
Finding aid created by Chris Baker
April 2007
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America