One Law Firm … A History of Experience
The story of Landis Graham French spans over one hundred years. It is this rich history that supports our firm belief in the importance of stability and continuity. Our past is the key to our future, and the continuing vitality of the firm assures we will continue to add chapters to our storied history.
The firm of Landis Graham French is the oldest law firm in Volusia County and one of the oldest firms in continuous existence in the State of Florida. For many years, it was informally referred to as simply “the old firm” by attorneys throughout Central Florida.
Our original law office was a one-story building built specifically for the firm in 1902 at 110 West Indiana Avenue in downtown DeLand, Florida, the county seat for Volusia County. Many of the original office furnishings are still used by the Firm today, including roll-top desks, oak filing cabinets, and chairs, date to the early 1900s. During its illustrious history, our Firm has undergone a number of name changes as senior members have come into the firm, died, or moved on to other positions. Founded by partners Cary D. Landis and Bert Fish in 1902, our firm has produced a number of judges, state lawmakers, government officials, ambassadors, and law school faculty. Actually, our Firm has been involved in the development of Florida’s politics since its inception.
1873 – Cary D. Landis, born in Indiana.
1875 – Bert Fish, born in Bedford, Indiana.
1900 – Fish becomes Superintendent of Volusia County Schools.
1901 – Landis joins the faculty of Stetson College of Law as Assistant Professor of Law.
1902 – Fish earns his law degree (LL.B.) from Stetson University School of Law, one of five individuals in the first graduating class. A law firm is born as a formal partnership between Cary D. Landis and Bert Fish and is known as Landis & Fish.
1910 – Fish serves as Judge of the Criminal Court of Volusia County.
1911 – Landis is elected State Attorney for the Seventh Judicial Circuit, receiving a majority vote in each county comprising the district at that time.
1914 – Dossie C. Hull, a 1909 Stetson University graduate who taught at Stetson Law School, joins Landis & Fish as a partner, forming Landis, Fish & Hull. Mr. Hull is known as a “straight arrow,” always seeking the highest ideals of ethics and propriety.
1917 – Fish ends his term as Judge of the Criminal Court of Volusia County.
1925 – The law firm’s building is expanded to a two-story facility in order to accommodate the firm’s growth.
1926 – Francis P. Whitehair is made a partner and the firm name becomes Landis, Fish, Hull & Whitehair.
1928 – Bert Fish retires, and the firm is renamed Hull, Landis & Whitehair. J. “Ollie” Edmunds joins the firm, and later becomes President of Stetson University. After supporting Franklin D. Roosevelt’s campaign for president, several firm members are appointed to high government offices.
1931 – Bert Fish again serves as Volusia County’s Criminal Court Judge. Cary D. Landis is appointed Florida Attorney General by Doyle Carlton, the newly elected governor. On November 23, Attorney General Landis rules that the duty of the State Road Department is to maintain the state roads and enforce the laws enacted to preserve its physical structure. As a result, the road department hires 12 weight inspectors who are placed under the supervision of the division engineers. This is the beginning of state law enforcement in Florida, and the foundation of what would become the Florida Highway Patrol. Attorney General Landis also argued before the United States Supreme Court in several cases including Wall v McNee, 55 S.Ct. 835 (1935). In this notable case, Landis argued against his son, Erskine W. Landis, who was practicing with the firm. Also arguing the case was fellow firm member Francis P. Whitehair. Other cases argued by Attorney General Landis before the United States Supreme Court include Atlantic Coast Railroad v State of Florida, 295 U.S. 301 (1935) and Lee v Bickell, 292 U.S. 415 (1934).
1933 – Fish named Minister to Egypt by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
1938 – Landis dies in office while serving as the Attorney General of Florida.
1939 – The building known as Seniors Hall on the campus of Florida State University is renamed Landis Hall, in memory of Cary D. Landis. Landis Hall sits at the south end of the courtyard known as Landis Green. This same year, Fish is named the first U.S. Minister to Saudi Arabia, and serves through February 1941. His activities are critical in opening the Middle Eastern petroleum market to the U.S. and Europe, a move vital to the continuing growth of the world economy. As a close confidant of President Roosevelt, his diplomatic efforts helped isolate the strengthening Nazi regime from the Middle East’s critical oil supplies. After the outbreak of World War II, Fish was appointed Ambassador to Portugal.
1941 – Two of Landis’ Assistant Attorney Generals, John L. Graham and J. Compton French become firm partners, and for a brief period the firm name is Hull, Landis, Whitehair, Graham & French. The Firm name is changed to Hull, Landis, Graham & French, at the end of World War II when Francis Whitehair, who, during his career ran for the U.S. Senate and for Florida Governor, is appointed Under Secretary of the Navy by President Harry S. Truman.
1943 – Judge Bert Fish dies in Lisbon of unknown circumstances.
During this period, the firm represented the Estate of John B. Stetson, namesake of Stetson University; the Estate of Adolph DeBary, namesake of the City of DeBary; and the Florida Estate of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., the Standard Oil magnate.
1952 – Thorwald J. “Ted” Husfeld joins the firm. During his tenure, Mr. Husfeld became known as a champion of people and causes, often bringing his distinctive “down home” touch to the practice of law.
1959 – William E. Sherman joins the firm. After John Graham helped establish the West Volusia Hospital Authority (a taxing district set up to provide indigent health care), Mr. Sherman was appointed the Authority’s general counsel. Mr. Sherman also served on the Volusia County Charter Study Commission that drafted the Volusia County Charter. This “County Constitution” was the First Article VIII County Charter in Florida. Many of the untested ideas pioneered by the County Charter have stood the test of time, a testament to the quality of work from the drafting group. Mr. Sherman continued his contributions to the BAR by facilitating the Attorney Realtor Accord. This group drafted the first FAR BAR Sale and Purchase Contract, by far the most popular contract in Florida for the conveyance of real property.
1963 – After a long and distinguished career with the firm, Dossie Hull retires and shortly thereafter dies, leaving a multi-million dollar bequest to Stetson University.
1967 – The firm name is changed to Landis, Graham, French, Husfeld & Sherman.
1967 – Erskine W. Landis, the son of founding partner Cary D. Landis, and member of the firm, dies. (His son, Cary E. Landis, was associated with the firm for a brief period before he became a career Navy officer after World War II.)
1969 – A merger with the law firm of Ford, Wren and Sanders, changes the firm name to Landis, Graham, French, Husfeld, Sherman & Ford, P.A. Mr. Frank A. Ford Sr. was instrumental in founding the Oil & Gas Law Section of the Florida Bar.
1971 – Richard S. Graham, the son of John L. Graham, joins the firm. In one of his first cases, Ted Husfeld and he successfully obtained the release of Jesse Daniels, an indigent, mentally challenged young man wrongfully confined from 1958 to 1971. (For more on this case, see Daniels v State of Florida 254 So2d 395 (Fla 2 DCA 1971).)
Early 1970s – Mr. Sherman serves on the Joint Commission that drafted the Florida Probate Code, the law that governs wills in Florida.
1972 – After serving a four-year term as Judge of Industrial Claims under Governor Claude Kirk, William A. Ottinger joins the firm to staff the firm’s new Deltona office. Mr. Ottinger also served as municipal judge for both DeLand and Orange City.
1978 – John L. Graham, Richard’s father and member of the firm, dies. Joe Dykes joins the firm. Mr. Dyke’s leadership has been instrumental in transforming the firm’s business model. Mr. Dykes continues to serve the Firm with an emphasis on personal injury law.
1983 – F. A. (Alex) Ford, Jr., son of Frank A. Ford Sr., joins the firm, and firm member Edwin P.B. “Eddie” Sanders is appointed Circuit Court Judge for Volusia County.
1984 through 1986 – William Sherman serves as Chair of the Florida BAR committee, which sets up the BAR’s Board Certification process for Estate Planning and Probate. (He receives his Board Certification in that area in 1986.)
1985 – The firm moves its DeLand offices less than two blocks from its original building on Indiana Avenue to 145 East Rich Avenue to expand its office space and parking. Richard F. Conrad is appointed County Judge for Orange County, and subsequently appointed to a Circuit Judgeship. J. Compton French, the oldest member of the firm, who worked in the Daytona Beach office, retires. Mr. Sherman served as Chairman of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar from 1984 to 1985.
1987 – William Sherman receives the Robert C. Scott Memorial Award for his outstanding service to the Bar.
1988 – Richard Graham is elected State Representative in the Florida House of Representatives, District 28. Mr. Graham defeated powerful house member Sam Bell (who was in line for the speakership) to take the position. Mr. Graham represented the School Board of Volusia County twice (1975-1988 and 1997-2001) – the same school board that Bert Fish was superintendent of in 1900. John Roger Smith is appointed to a County Judgeship for Volusia County. Smith is the nephew by marriage to Judge James W. Perkins, one of the early DeLand residents who may have been involved in founding the firm. Richard Graham was appointed to a newly created Circuit Judgeship.
1989 – Frank A. Ford, Sr. becomes Of Counsel to the firm.
1995 – Mr. Husfeld passes away, and the firm names its law library the “Thorwald J. Husfeld Memorial Library” in honor of his commitment to justice.
2010 – William E. Sherman and J. Compton French pass away.
Seven partners of the firm are known to have served as President of the Volusia County BAR Association – Francis Whitehair, 1940; D. C. Hull, 1944; Erskine Landis, 1950; Compton French, 1960-61; William Sherman, 1969-70; Thorwald J. “Ted” Husfeld, 1973-74; and Richard S. Graham, 1979-80. Additionally, four other associate members of the firm also served in that position, including John E. Socash, Curtis Basch, Walter Shelly, and Sebrina L. Slack.
Landis Graham French stands firmly on its rich history and continues to grow through its community involvement. We encourage participation in community affairs and remain dedicated to providing service to the general community at a level consistent with our performance in the practice of law. As our history reflects, members of the firm have accomplished notable successes, both during and after their association with the firm.