Looking back at the old Duval County Courthouse

Judge remembers courthouse while growing up in Jacksonville

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Roxy Tyler - Web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - There is not much left of the old Duval County Courthouse except memories. It was built in 1957 and was active until 2012. 

Judge David Gooding has a lot of memories of the old courthouse. As the walls were coming down, he shared many of them with us. His father, Judge Marion Gooding, who passed away in 1981, was a fundamental figure at the courthouse and inspired his son to follow in his footsteps.

“My earliest memories are as a boy sitting at my father’s desk. I would either be coloring or reading a book while he was conducting chambers right next door,” David Gooding said.

He said one of the most memorable events involving his dad happened just as the courthouse was being built. It had not opened yet, but this event shook all of Jacksonville and involved Elvis Presley.

In 1956, the King of Rock 'n Roll  had several concerts scheduled in Jacksonville. The church community was worried about riots and the morality of the community, and Marion Gooding had a talk with Elvis letting him know what he could and could not do.

“There is an article in Life magazine and a photograph of Elvis and my dad sitting in his chambers where he’s discussing to him and explaining his options,” David Gooding said. His father attended the first performance.

Marion Gooding was also instrumental in helping to shape Jacksonville's current government by presiding over a political corruption case in Jacksonville that later contributed to a consolidated government.

David Gooding said his father impaneled a grand jury to investigate wrongdoing of city and county commissioners. Gooding said his father’s actions were based on investigative reports that were being run on Channel 4 News at that time.

“That was a dangerous time,” Gooding said of those days. He says his father knew there was going to be a press release about the grand jury and sent him and his mother to stay with relatives in South Carolina so they could be safe.

The outcome eventually led to consolidation and a new form of government in Jacksonville.

David Gooding has followed in his father's footsteps. He became a Circuit Court judge and said the biggest highlight of his career is something he started in the old courthouse: presiding over the adoptions of children. 

“It’s amazing to me, and I never get tired of it. I don’t think I ever will,” Gooding said. 

Gooding has overseen more than 4,000 adoptions in Duval County.

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