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Chester H. Ferguson Law Center: home of the Hillsborough County Bar Association and the Hillsborough County Bar Foundation.

The Chester H. Ferguson Law Center offers a state of the art facility to benefit the Hillsborough County legal community and provide a permanent home for the association and the foundation. This facility serves as a location not only to conduct business of the bar, but also to provide a venue to capture the collegial spirit of the bar. It serves as a forum to facilitate the expansion of the quality of jurisprudence, as well as a location where community programs providing legal assistance to the poor and disadvantaged, promoting social welfare, working toward the elimination of prejudice, and protecting human and civil rights can be organized, operated, and staffed.

The concept for the law center started over 30 years ago during the year that Joe Melendi was president of the Hillsborough County Bar Association. During the initial research, A. Dallas Albritton, Louis Putney, and Fraser Himes traveled to Missouri to meet with bar leaders and obtain information that would help in initiating a plan.

In 1987, HCBA President Judge James S. Moody, Jr., appointed a committee to again review the feasibility of a law center. Through the years, the dream was kept alive, and in 1995, HCBA President Richard Gilbert and a blue ribbon committee again focused on housing for the HCBA. In 1996, William Kalish became the first president of the Hillsborough County Bar Foundation, which would ultimately serve as the organizing vehicle to ensure the completion of the facility. During HCBA President Margaret D. Matthew's planning retreat in 1998, it was determined that the HCBA and the HCBF needed a permanent home.

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Between 2000 and 2001, the Hillsborough County Bar Association explored many possibilities and properties as an appropriate site for the facility. Among the most important criteria for the site included the need for a downtown location with convenient parking. In 2002, a leadership group chaired by John F. Rudy II and A. Dallas Albritton met with Mayor Dick Greco to discuss the possibility of the land that had housed the former Tampa Police Department. Also included in the discussion was Stetson University, which was searching for a location for the college of law's new part-time program. The city ultimately offered the parcel of land to Stetson, providing the opportunity for the bar foundation, under the leadership of Foundation President Joseph W. N. Rugg, to purchase the land in 2003 and begin to transform the concept of the building into a reality. A project of this nature requires capital and William A. Gillen, Jr., agreed to chair the foundation's Capital Campaign.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on June 20, 2006, during the terms of bar foundation President Barbara Twine-Thomas and association President Lansing C. Scriven, and construction commenced in January 2007. Located adjacent to the Stetson University College of Law Tampa campus in the Tampa Heights redevelopment area, the law center has become a key component to Tampa's urban renaissance and the redevelopment of the downtown business community.

The Hillsborough County Bar Association is pleased to call its first permanent home the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center. The name is a reflection of an individual who was not only an excellent lawyer, but also a devoted community leader and successful entrepreneur who recognized the impact that a strong higher education system would have on Florida.

The Chester H. Ferguson Law Center features two large lecture/ conference rooms with all the modern technologies, three smaller breakout/ conference rooms, a separate lounge area for clients, and workstations for attorneys. All future meetings of the HCBA and HCBF will be held at the law center. For more information contact the bar association at (813) 271-7777 or laurie@hillsbar.com.

Maria Simmons Johnson is voluntary bar liaison with The Florida Bar's Public Information and Bar Services Department.
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Title Annotation:Spotlight
Author:Johnson, Maria Simmons
Publication:Florida Bar Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2008
Words:629
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