(1922 - 2011)
At age 17, J.B. Spence joined the U.S. Navy and served on the U.S.S. Roper, the U.S.S. Ruben James, and the U.S.S. Thomas J. Gary covering the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Pacific and South Pacific. After being discharged from the Navy he returned to Miami and painted houses, worked in a hardware store, mowed lawns, and drove a laundry truck. He enrolled in Lindsay Hopkins night school and earned his high school diploma in 1947. A friend of his suggested he go to law school after he acquired college credits at the University of Miami. In 1951 he earned his Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Miami. After meeting the legendary Florida trial lawyer Perry Nichols, J.B. was offered an associate position with his firm where he became a product of "The Perry Nichols Great Trial Lawyer Factory." J.B. became and remained one of America's most talented and well-known personal injury trial lawyers, handling the widest variety of cases involving injury and death from falls, auto collisions, aviation crashes, product failures, and, especially, medical malpractice for which he had a national reputation. He came to be known as the "Dean of Torts," winning more than 100 verdicts of $1 million or more.
J.B.'s first huge case was representing the parents of two teenagers killed when a Dominican cargo plane smashed into the family's auto body shop near Miami International Airport in 1969. It was reported that "The earth shook and insurance giants trembled when the jury returned a verdict of $1.8 million for one boy, and J.B. fainted right there in the courtroom." It was the largest verdict ever awarded at that time for the death of a child. When he regained conscious, J.B. wept. Later, two Florida appellate courts affirmed the award, and the family collected every penny. A separate jury awarded $600,000 for the death of the second boy killed in the crash.
J.B. practiced law for more than 60 years and was admired and respected by his legal colleagues. He was mentor to many, and friend to all.