Attorney Burton Young pays it forward

As a student at Miami Beach High in the 1940s, Burton Young told a favorite teacher he thought his destiny was to be a shoe salesman. “I told her the only thing I excelled in was selling women’s shoes,” Young said.

That teacher, Roberta Godbolt, and her lawyer husband saw promise in Young, who was so poor he once had rickets from malnutrition and who describes his teenage self as “very withdrawn and out-of-tune.” The Godbolts turned him into a project, taking him to a Toastmasters Club and drawing him out in a way that felt to him “like walking from a dark room into the sunlight.”

The Ft. Lauderdale attorney, who celebrated his 90th birthday in August, has spent the rest of his life paying it forward and continuing the transformation the Godbolts started. Young became the first Jewish president of The Florida Bar, president of The Florida Bar Foundation, and a recipient of the Foundation’s highest award – the Medal of Honor Award.

A member of the Foundation’s Legacy for Justice, Young continues to support the Foundation. He made a charitable gift annuity benefiting the Foundation and returns his quarterly distribution as a donation.

As president of the Foundation in the mid-’70s, he invited Col. Norman Faulkner to speak to the Foundation board about a program Faulkner had learned of on a trip to Australia – where the interest earned on lawyers’ trust monies was used by the Bar for the public good. The idea took root and, in 1981, became Florida’s Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) program – the nation’s first such program and still the Foundation’s major funding source today.

He encouraged the Miami Beach-based Batchelor Foundation to make a series of three $100,000 donations to the Foundation earmarked for the Children & Youth Law Clinic at the University of Miami, which represents children in foster care and former foster youth in dependency, health care, mental health, disability, and other civil legal matters.

“Without this aid, our work would be much more difficult,” said clinic Co-Director Bernie Perlmutter. “We are grateful also to the Foundation and to our mutual friend Burton Young.”

“There is a lot more to be done in the future,” Young said. “It should be every lawyer’s dream to help the administration of justice.”