Justice Major B. Harding was appointed to the Supreme Court of Florida on January 22, 1991 and retired August 31, 2002. He has returned to the practice of law with the firm of Ausley & McMullen, Tallahassee, FL.
Justice Harding is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina. He attended Eastover Elementary, Alexander Graham Jr. High, and graduated from Central High School in 1953.
Justice Harding received his Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Laws degrees from Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1957 and 1959, respectively, and he attended the United States Army Infantry School and the United States Army Judge Advocate General School in 1960, Justice Harding received a degree of Master of Laws in Judicial Process from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1995. Justice Harding received an honorary doctor of laws degrees from Stetson University in 1991 and from Florida Coastal School of Law in 1999.
While at Wake Forest, he was a member of Phi Delta Phi Legal Fraternity, Sigma Chi Fraternity, and Scabbard & Blade Honorary Military Fraternity. He was admitted to the North Carolina Bar in 1959, to The Florida Bar in 1960, and is a member of the American Bar. From 1960-62 he served as assistant staff judge advocate at Fort Gordon, Georgia, where he received trial experience in general courts martial, legal assistance, and government contracts. In 1962-1963 he was the assistant county solicitor prosecuting in Duval County's Criminal Court of Record, and in 1964 he entered private practice.
He began his tenure on the bench in Florida with his 1968 appointment as a Duval County Juvenile Court judge. In December 1970 he was appointed a Circuit Judge of the Fourth Judicial Circuit. As a circuit judge, he was elected chief judge in 1974 and again in 1975. At the time of his appointment to the Supreme Court, he was the Dean of the Florida Judicial College and Chair-elect of the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges. In 1996, Justice Harding was appointed Chair of the Florida Court Education Council. Shortly after becoming Chief Justice in July 1998, he was retained on the Court by the voters of Florida. He served as Chief Justice through June 2000.
Justice Harding has served on the Supreme Court's Matrimonial Law Commission, the Gender Bias Study Commission, the Bench Bar Commission, the Florida Court Education Council, the Judicial Council, and was a founding member of the Chester Bedell Inn of Court in Jacksonville. In 1995-96 he was president of the Rotary Club of Tallahassee and in 2005 was the recipient of the Fredrick Clifton Moor Award for distinguished service to Rotary and the community. He is Past-President of the Tallahassee American Inns of Court. Justice Harding also chaired the Supreme Court Committee on Law Related Education. Justice Harding was co-chair of the American Bar Association Bar Admission Committee. He also served as an ex-officio Board Member of the American Inns of Court and as Master Emeritus of the Chester Bedell and Tallahassee American Inns of Court. Justice Harding served as Dean of the New Judge's College from 1984-1992, and as a member of the faculty from 1984 to the present. At present he serves as ex-officio member of the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. He has served on the State Board of the Guardian ad Litem program. He recently served as a member of the Florida Bar Special Commission on Lawyer Regulation.
In 1986, he received the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Award for outstanding contribution to the field of matrimonial law; and in 1980, the Young Lawyers Section of the Jacksonville Bar nominated him for the Outstanding Circuit Judge award. While a circuit judge, he was consistently rated at the top of the annual judicial polls of the Jacksonville Bar Association. In 1997 Justice Harding was the recipient of the Significant Sig Award by Sigma Chi Fraternity. In September 1998 he was awarded the Justice Harry Lee Anstead Professionalism Award by the Dade County Trial Lawyers Association. Justice Harding received the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs Judicial Recognition Award. He received the Jurist of the Year award from the Jacksonville Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates for the year 2000 and the 2001 (Florida Board of Trial Advocates) Jurist of the Year Award for the State of Florida. He was awarded the 2001 Distinguished Service Award by the National Center for State Courts and the William A. Dugger Professional Integrity Award by the Capital Rotary Club of Tallahassee. He received the 2002 William Hoeveler Judicial Professionalism Award. The General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Section of The Florida Bar presented him with the Tradition of Excellence Award for 2006 and in 2007 he was inducted into the Garinger High School (formerly Central High School) Hall of Fame.
Justice Harding was active in civic affairs in Jacksonville. He has served as a board member for Daniel Memorial (a psychiatric treatment center for disturbed youth). He was president of the Rotary Club of Riverside, Jacksonville. Justice Harding also served as chair of the United States Constitution Bicentennial Commission of Jacksonville in 1987. He has served on the Board of Visitors for Wake Forest School of Law in Winston -Salem, N.C., the President's Council for Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, as President, Chairman, and is currently Treasurer of the Economic Club of Florida. He also has served on the Board of Trustees of Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA and the Board of Trustrees of the Tallahassee Community College Foundation. He is currently on the Board of The Historic Capitol Foundation in Tallahassee, Florida.
Justice Harding is a member of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Tallahassee where he teaches a men’s Bible class and was Sr. Warden. As a member of a St. Johns Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, he served as deacon and elder, and he has been active in church education, teaching adults, youth, and primary age children. While a member of Christ Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee, he served as an elder and Clerk of the Session. Also, he was Sr. Warden at St. John’s Episcopal Church while a member there.
He is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell and has been listed in the 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 Best Lawyers in Florida and has received the Tallahassee Best Lawyer of the Year in Appellate Practice for 2011. He also has been named to Florida Trend’s Florida Legal Elite.
Justice Harding and his wife, the former Jane Lewis, have three children -- Major, David, and Alice -- and eight grandchildren.