Bruce B. Blackwell is CEO/Executive Director of The Florida Bar Foundation, a statewide charitable organization whose mission is to provide greater access to justice.
Prior to joining the Foundation he was a founding partner with the seven-lawyer Orlando law firm of King, Blackwell, Zehnder & Wermuth, P.A., specializing in complicated civil litigation. He retired from the firm in mid-2014 to become only the second CEO/Executive Director in the Foundation’s history.
Blackwell has been admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia (presently inactive), and New York, formerly served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Woodrow Wilson College of Law in Atlanta and has been a frequent lecturer at seminars on legal ethics, professionalism, and substantial trial related matters.
Before entering a private trial practice in 1981, Blackwell was an attorney for Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Co., and later an antitrust attorney with AT&T. He was the youngest lawyer asked to be a member of the trial team in the antitrust suit to break up the Bell System. He then spent almost a year with SunBanks of Florida, Inc., during a period of rapid expansion to a statewide banking system.
Blackwell has received many professional awards and recognitions, including the Orange County Bar Association’s William E. Trickel, Jr., Professionalism Award in 2003; inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America since 2006, and in 2009-2015 in the categories of Commercial Litigation, Bet the Company Litigation, and Litigation-Real Estate; listing in The American Lawyer as a Top Commercial Litigator for 2006-2012; and inclusion in Florida Trend magazine on every statewide lawyer peer reviews since 2004 as one of Florida’s “Legal Elite.” In 2014 he was named Orlando’s top litigator in the category of “Bet the Company” litigation. In 2009 he was named as one of 48 lawyers statewide to the Legal Elite Hall of Fame and has been similarly honored in every subsequent year. He has been listed as a Florida Superlawyer since 2007 and, in 2012, Florida Superlawyers named his firm the top small litigation firm in Florida. In 2013 he was named one of the top 100 lawyers in Florida in Florida Superlawyers annual peer reviewed survey of Florida lawyers. He is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA).
Just as numerous as his professional awards are his awards for service. In 2016 he received the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Award from The Florida Bar, its highest pro bono honor. In 2013 Blackwell became the seventh Floridian in 30 years to receive the American Bar Association’s highest award for public service when he was presented a Pro Bono Publico Award at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. He is also a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.
In 2008 he was the recipient of the ABA’s Grassroots Advocacy Award for his sustained and effective lobbying efforts to the United States Congress on behalf of the poor throughout the United States. He is the first Floridian to receive this national award. That same year the Florida Council of Bar Association Presidents awarded him the statewide Outstanding Voluntary Bar President Award, their highest award, and he received the Judge James G. Glazebrook Memorial Outstanding Member Award from The George C. Young First Central Florida American Inn of Court. The award represents the Inn’s highest award for service to the law profession and to the Inn. In 2009, he was the recipient of the Florida State University College of Law Alumni Service Award, its highest alumni award for service.
He was honored with the 1996 Judge J. C. “Jake” Stone Legal Aid Society Distinguished Service Award, the annual outstanding pro bono service award for the Ninth Circuit, and he received the President of The Florida Bar’s 1997 and 2013 pro bono service award for the Ninth Circuit. He is the only Orange County lawyer twice honored with this award. He was honored by The Florida Association for Women Lawyers (FAWL) with its annual 1998 Friend of FAWL Award. In the spring of 2017 he received the Champions for Justice Award from The Barry University School of Law, its highest annual award for service to the profession.
Blackwell also has dedicated much of his career to service to the legal profession. In 2013 he was named one of 64 statewide members of VISION 2016, a Florida Bar Commission to study the future of the practice of law in Florida over the next 20 years. He was previously appointed by the Florida Supreme Court to its Pro Bono Services Committee overseeing pro bono services statewide, and was re-appointed to that committee in 2015. He served on the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar from 1994-1998 and chaired its 1997 Annual Meeting, co-chaired its Disciplinary Review Committee and chaired the Solo and Small Firm Special Committee. In 2007 he was named a Trustee of The Florida Supreme Court Historical Society and served as President from for 2010-11. In 2010-11, he was appointed by the President of The Florida Bar to a small Special Committee to secure adequate funding for the State’s Judiciary from the Legislature.
He served from 1998 through 2009 as a member of The Florida Bar Foundation Board of Directors and helped oversee the disbursement of more than 25 million dollars in legal aid grants statewide each year on behalf of the lawyers of Florida. He concluded his term as President in 2008, and served as an Endowment Trustee until 2014. He previously chaired the Legal Assistance for the Poor/Law Student Assistance Grant Committee, the Budget and Finance Committee, and for several years was Chair of the Administration of Justice Committee recommending grants for systemic legal issues in Florida. In 2002, he received The Foundation’s President’s Award for Excellence, and in 2011 he received the Foundation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor Award, given annually to a Florida lawyer who has demonstrated dedication to The Florida Bar’s objectives, “…to inculcate in its members the principles of duty and service to the public, to improve the administration of justice, and to advance the science of jurisprudence.” Other Medal of Honor Award recipients include Florida governors LeRoy Collins and Reubin Askew, past ABA presidents Sandy D’Alemberte and Martha Barnett, and former Florida Supreme Court Justices Joseph W. Hatchett and the late Arthur England, Jr.
He served for many years as a member of the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee for Lawyers Action, a statewide PAC for Florida lawyers to ensure fair and impartial courts and protect the core values of the legal profession and practice of law. He concluded that service in 2010.
Blackwell served in 1985-86 as the National President (Chair) of the Florida State University Alumni Association and as President of The Florida State University College of Law Alumni Association for 2006-2007. In the spring of 2014, the National FSU Alumni Association inducted him into its prestigious CIRCLE OF GOLD, honoring his lifetime of excellence through service to Florida State University and his lifetime of personal achievement, an honor limited generally to eight recipients per year by the Alumni Association.
Mr. Blackwell has previously served as the President of the Orange County Bar Association, Co-Chair of its first Gender Bias Committee, Chair of the Ninth Circuit’s Grievance Committee, Chair of the Ninth Circuit’s Fee Arbitration Committee, and from 1998-2001 as the Co-Chair of the Orange County Bar Association Fair Judicial Campaign Practices Committee. He and his firm received a 2009 OCBA President’s Award for long-term service to the OCBA over the past twenty years.
He was for many years a Master in the George C. Young First Central Florida American Inn of Court, and from 2000 through 2007 was the Counselor to the Inn. The Inn is a legal society dedicated to promoting professionalism and civility in the practice of law.
A fifth generation Floridian, Blackwell was raised in rural Marion County. He graduated with honors from the Florida State University College of Law in 1974, receiving the Coyle E. Moore, Jr., Award from ODK signifying the most outstanding male student leader at FSU. He also earned his bachelor’s degree at FSU, graduating in 1968 and receiving numerous leadership honors and awards including the Hall of Fame, Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), Order of Omega, Gold Key, Senior Class President, Outstanding Senior of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity, and Founding Chair for the predecessor of the first Student Alumni Association.
After graduation he served as an officer in the United States Air Force with distinction, initiated the first Interracial Council on any USAF base in the United States and was named to Outstanding Young Men of America, 1972 edition. In his last two years of active duty he served as the protocol aide to Vice Admiral Walter H. Baumberger, Commander, United States Taiwan Defense Command in Taipei, Taiwan.
He has been married for more than 47 years to Julie McMillan Blackwell, and together they have two daughters, Blair Allison Blackwell and Brooke Blackwell Castino. He has two granddaughters.