Background of Judge Shippey

Judge Shippey was the second judge to serve Broward County in its history. He was appointed after the first judge, J.F. Bunn, died in office. Shippey was working as his assistant, at the time. How he got to his position, and why he was appointed, with all the powers over marriages, probate and misdemeanors, when not admitted to the Bar, is a question left unanswered to this day.

His time on the bench seems to have been overshadowed by the two other judges’ book-ending his career. J.F. Bunn, who was the first judge Broward County, died while in office. The county’s third judge, Boyd Anderson, replaced Shippey after his resignation. Anderson served Broward County for 35 years.

Judge Shippey was born Fredrick Bleecker Shippey on September 5, 1877 in Hancock/ McComb, Illinois.  He was the youngest of four boys born to John Anthony Bleecker (hereinafter, J.A.B.) and Sarah Elizabeth Shippey.

At the time Fred Shippey was born his father was recorded as being a school teacher.  There are no records of Judge Shippey having any formal education, but he may have been taught at home by his father. In a later census, as well as his obituary, J.A.B.’s profession was recorded as being an attorney.  Several sources mention that he was a practicing attorney in Illinois and was a member of the Illinois Bar for twenty-two years, being admitted in 1872.  There are also sources which note that J.A.B. Shippey was a judge at one point, but there is nothing to substantiate that claim. J.A.B.’s practice as an attorney is important later on when discussing how his son was appointed judge.

After marrying Bertha Forest Ragen, the couple moved back to Kansas with Fred’s family. In 1902, their first and only child, Forrest Regan Shippey, was born.  They continued to live in Kansas until 1912, the entire time all available records indicating that Fred was working as a farmer or farm laborer.  During this time, he and his father’s obituaries tell us that they were working as farmers and accumulating land prior to moving to Florida. Since they were able to move to Florida in 1912 to buy land, it is very likely that they were running a rather lucrative farm.

According to Fred’s obituary he moved to Florida in 1912, to what is now Broward County. Two other sources also show that Fred’s father, J.A.B. Shippey, also moved to Broward in 1912.

 

In 1918, Fred filed a change of address form for his voter registration to the address, “n Colee av North 104 S.W. 6 ave.”, the address of what is now 215 S.W. 7th Ave., where the historic Shippey Home currently sits.

During this time, between coming to Broward County and prior to being appointed Judge, he became “an extensive holder of properties” and a prominent grower.  South Florida at the time had a sparse population and with the newly drained Everglades, it opened up land in the Broward County area. This may have been what attracted the Shippey family to Florida.

1920 was a significant year in Fred Shippey’s life. According to the census records, his occupation, still, was recorded as a farmer. This, of course, may only have been one of many his occupations. His obituary, as well as other sources, stated that he was an assistant to Broward County’s first judge, J.F. Bunn who sat on the bench from 1915, the year Broward County was founded, until his death in 1920. Bunn’s duties consisted of presiding over cases involving misdemeanors, marriages, licensing, probate and juvenile cases, all of which are consistent with the cases Judge Shippey presided over during his time on the bench. Judge Shippey was appointed to the bench to fill the unexpired term of J.F. Bunn after his death. The decision process though, when appointing Fred Shippey over other candidates, remains a mystery.

A possible theory as to why Fred Shippey was chosen to be county judge may tie into his father’s professional background. Being a practicing attorney himself in Illinois (some sources calling him a judge) as well as a school teacher, it is probable that J.A.B. educated Fred, not only the basics but also in more refined topics, especially the law. No source indicates that Fred had any formal education, and he was not admitted as a member of the Bar until after being appointed to the bench.  His father’s knowledge and experience working as an attorney coupled with the small population in Broward County at the time, made it likely J.A.B. Shippey’s opinion was sought after regarding who would replace Bunn after his death.

The ins-and-outs of the Shippey courtroom are still relatively unknown.  All we are able to do is piece together information and try to infer what kind of Judge he was. One historical insight is given in a 1922 news report in the St. Petersburg Times, describing an incident during a habeas corpus hearing over which Judge Shippey had presided. The article states the defendant may have tried to bribe Judge Shippey in order to win his suit. While the article does not provide great detail it does tell how Judge Shippey was overheard discussing that the defendant had attempted to bribe him through two accomplices in his chambers.

On reviewing news articles about Judge Shippey during his time on the bench it is apparent he also was very active in marriage proceedings. There is some indication he was a very popular judge sought after to perform marriages as some celebrities and notables of the time went to him for their wedding ceremonies.

In 1929 Judge Shippey lost his wife and in 1930 he lost his father. This may explain why, only a year after his wife’s death, he remarried a woman named Emily J. Milner. There is virtually no information about Emily in any records. We do know, however, they were divorced in 1932. This short term marriage is the only reference to Emily J. Milner in any record to be found.

During his short marriage, Judge Shippey continued helping children which had been a lifelong endeavor. In his role as chairman of the Elks lodge endowment fund, he and the president, or ‘grand exalted ruler,’ of his chapter traveled around Florida to assist with disabled children.  In 1931, his organization helped establish a hospital for crippled children in Umatilla, Florida.  The home is still in operation today as a hospital and camp for children with disabilities.

By 1933 Judge Shippey had been the only county judge in Broward County for thirteen years.  During this year he was ailing and his illness had progressed enough to force his resignation from the bench.  He remained at home until March of 1934, when he moved to Tennessee to live with his son and his family.  Judge Shippey continued to live there until his death on September 15, 1934, ten days after his 57th birthday.  Three days later, Judge Shippey was buried in Fort Lauderdale’s Evergreen Cemetery, also the resting place of his father and mother.  He was buried next to Bertha, his wife of almost 30 years.

 

Judge Shippey was a loving son; his father lived with him until his death. He was a devoted husband as he was married to Bertha for nearly 30 years. He was close to his only son Forrest, as he went to live with him during the final year of his life.

Fred Shippey’s service to his family, his county, and his country, with his overseas service, reveals a man of moral integrity. As a judge, he used his position to help people. Most importantly, he incorporated his charity work outside of the court room into his work on the bench; over the years, as a member of the Elks Lodge, he was recognized for his work with disabled children. Still, his works with juvenile court cases were his ‘claim to fame’. He presided over 1,000 juvenile cases and never had a re-offender.

[Note: The above section is attributed to Ms. Merrilyn Rathbun, Research Director of the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and Historic Preservation Consultant to the City of Fort Lauderdale.  Additional information on Judge Shippey and the Shippey family is attributed to the scholarly work of Ms. Elizabeth Fisher, J. D. Candidate at the Shepard Broad Law Center at Nova Southeastern University.]