IMAGE Attorney's Register Article

Retired judge helps solve mystery of attorney’s register

An old book filled with the signatures of some of the best-known lawyers in Tampa history has been gathering dust in our Records Center for decades.

It was wrapped in mystery.

No one seemed to recall what the book was used for or why attorneys signed it, complete with their address and the date they signed it.

The Hillsborough Bar Association published an inquiry a couple of years ago in its journal, Lawyer, and no one stepped forward.

But a memory of the day President Kennedy was killed stirred the recollections of E.J. Salcines, former Hillsborough State Attorney who later served on the Second District Court of Appeal.

It turns out that Salcines signed the book the day Kennedy was assassinated. As Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times reports:

In November 1963, when he passed the Florida Bar Exam, he and 10 other new attorneys were invited to pick the brains of veteran legal minds. When Salcines arrived for that meeting, he learned it had been cancelled because of the assassination.

Before he left, he was asked to sign the book. He still can’t remember why exactly, but now he has a theory.

At the time, bar exams were administered county by county, not by the state of Florida. The ledger appears to be a registry proving eligibility to practice law.

The first signature, from 1872, was by Stephen Sparkman, later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he secured federal funding for dredging the Tampa Bay shipping channel. The last signature was by Stephen Leon in 1989, but he has no memory of it, the Times reports.

The mystery solved, the book has been returned to the Records Center for safe keeping.