A Graduate Once... An Alumni Forever

Judge Richard O Watson

Born in St. Augustine in 1933 , Richard’s father owned a farm at the southern end of town now known as Watson Road. His parents instilled a strong work ethic and encouraged their children’s education.

Dick attended St. Johns County public schools. At KHS, Mr. Watson lettered four years in baseball and three years in basketball and football. He was named to the All district Basketball Team, All East Coast Conference Basketball Team, All East Coast conference Football Team, the Orlando Sentinel All Mid-State .

In his sophomore year he scored 62 points playing tailback for the KHS football team.

After graduating KHS in 1951, he attended Sullivan Prep School in Washington, DC in hopes of enhancing his chances of receiving a congressional appointment to a military academy. He was named to the 1951 State of Florida High School All Star Football Team, starting at halfback and was the leading ground gainer on the North team. He was awarded a football scholarship at the University of Florida where he played on the varsity his first three years.

As a freshman, his tackle stopped Alabama on the Florida goal line and gave the Gators a 31-27 in 1951. Next season he was forced to play both offense and defense because of a shortage of players. Two knee operations ended his football career and he finished his senior year as a student coach graduating with a degree in journalism.

Upon graduation from UF, he was drafted into the US Army. He served as a clerk at the Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Later he received an appointment as a first lieutenant in the Florida National Guard and rose to the rank of major before resigning his commission. Following his release from the Army, he decided to pursue a career in law and was accepted to the University of Florida School of Law.

During this time he renewed an acquaintance with Peggy Pope, now a senior at Duke University.In 1960, after Dick graduated with honors from law school and Peggy graduated from Duke, they married moving to Ft. Lauderdale so Dick could begin work with a law firm. After two years, they moved back to St. Augustine where Dick joined the law firm of Coxe and Stephens. He was a sole practitioner from 1972 to 1977.

In 1967 he served as administrative assistant to the president of the Florida State Senate, his father-in-law, Verle Pope. He also became an Assistant Public Defender (a part-time position) in St. Johns County. He resigned this post in 1968.

In 1969 he became Assistant State Attorney and position he held until the end of 1976. In 1975 he was elected to the St. Augustine city Commission and served two years.He resigned the city commission in 1977 when he was appointed as the resident Circuit Judge for St. Johns County by Governor Rubin Askew. At the time of his appointment, he was the Circuit Judge in the county.

During his tenure as judge, he served as Chief Judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit (Volusia, Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns Counties) and as Administrative Judge of St. Johns County. In 1996 he retired from the bench and as of January 2001 serves as a Senior Circuit Judge on assignment by the Florida Supreme Court.

He has served on the board of directors for Marineland, Security Savings and Loan and St. Augustine National Bank, YMCA and the zoning He has been an instructor at the judge’s college, appointed by the governor to serve on the ethics advisory committee and served on the Department of Corrections advisory committee.

He has been called a judge’s judge, one that judges in-training want to emulate. The attorneys who practice law before him appreciate the standards of excellence he sets.

When asked what case stood out as being the most significant in his judicial career, he said that they are all significant. They all affect the person standing before the bench, waiting to find out how his life will be changed forever.

In 2008 the Richard O. Watson Judicial Center was dedicated in his honor

Richard O. Watson, SA/KHS Hall of Fame inductee 2010