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Marvin Umphrey Mounts, Jr.

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Judge Marvin Umphrey
Mounts, Jr.

Marvin Umphrey Mounts, Jr. (1932-2004) was born in West Palm Beach, the son of Marvin U. “Red” Mounts, Sr., Palm Beach County’s agricultural agent from 1929 to 1965. Marvin Mounts, Jr. graduated from Palm Beach High School in 1950 and served in Air Force Intelligence during the Korean Conflict. He earned a degree in history from the University of the South in Tennessee and a law degree from the University of Florida Law School in 1959, when he was hired as a prosecuting attorney for Palm Beach County. During the next five years, Mounts hired the office’s first female, Jewish, black, and Hispanic prosecutors. He served as county solicitor from 1964 until 1972, when he was elected circuit court judge.

During his time on the bench, Mounts presided over criminal and juvenile court, and presided over the first statewide grand jury in Florida. When he was forced to retire in 2002 due to age limits, Mounts was the longest-serving elected official in Palm Beach County and one of the longest in Florida. He was considered father of the state’s sentencing guidelines, which he often exceeded, and was the first judge to issue a death sentence after Florida reinstated the death penalty in 1978. Yet Mounts showed respect for both victims and defendants, and received many letters from those who appreciated his impact on their lives. Once a year he led law professionals on a tour of the state prison system to give them insight into Florida’s criminal justice system. The Florida Bar Association’s Criminal Law Section granted him its Selig I. Goldin Memorial Award in 1990 and established a scholarship in his memory.

After he retired, Mounts worked full-time towards restoration of the 1916 county courthouse, from which he had saved several major artifacts when the 1970s façade was added. A county commissioner planned to nominate him as official county historian, and the Historical Society of Palm Beach County awarded him the 2004 James R. Knott Historical Contribution Award. A fellow judge said of Mounts, “Marvin was very tough when he needed to be tough and very compassionate when compassion was called for.”

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