Calvin Reid Mapp Sr. left the military for teaching, teaching for law enforcement, law enforcement for the law, and law for the judicial bench, as the first black judge in Miami-Dade County.
Gov. Reubin Askew appointed Mapp to fill one of three county judgeships that the Florida Legislature created in 1973. He was 48 at the time, with seven years of trial experience.
Repeatedly reelected — with Miami Herald endorsements — he remained on the bench until his 1994 retirement, after which he served as a Senior Judge, filling in for sitting judges as needed, until 2000.
He served on a Selective Service board, on the Community Relations Board, and on the county’s HUD advisory board.
Born and raised in segregated Miami, Mapp was ambitious and civic-minded. He bought into a Lum’s restaurant and a dry cleaning store, and acted as a peacemaker during periods of inner-city turmoil.
During one 1970 violent outburst in Brownsville, Mapp, then in a private law practice, told an angry gathering: “All black people need to work toward a united front. The first thing we need to do is spread the word that there will be no more fighting You can’t even go to the corner drugstore for a pill if needed. Who’s suffering? You and me.’’
Born Sept. 10, 1924, Mapp died Nov. 27. Son Corey Mapp, who cared for his father at home near Miami Shores, said his father suffered from dementia, and had contracted pneumonia.
A U.S. Army combat-zone veteran of World War II with the 1324th Engineer General Service Regiment, Mapp was 88.
He was the son of Herschel Mapp and Edna Mapp — an unrelated woman who became Edna Mapp Mapp when she married — and the stepson of Richard E.S. Toomey, southeast Florida’s first black lawyer.
Mapp grew up on Northwest Fifth Court in Overtown lost to Interstate 95 construction. He attended Dunbar Elementary School then Booker T. Washington High, where he later taught biology and chemistry and met his future wife, English teacher Catherine Virginia Nelson.
In 1952, they married at the Historic Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Overtown. Catherine Mapp’s funeral was held there in December 2010; Calvin Mapp’s on Saturday.
During their 58-year partnership, Calvin Mapp relied on his wife to run his campaigns and to keep him focused, said son Corey.
Initially, he said, his father was “proud’’ of becoming a judge but faced it with “a lot of trepidation because he was the first, and he wondered if he was being set up for failure. My mother said there were things he could and couldn’t do’’ to remain above reproach.
So they kept to what their son called “a small and tight circle of friends...My mother always told my father that you have to do things two, three times better, and he took that to heart.’’
He described his father’s judicial demeanor as “straightforward,’’ although some found him “crusty and abrasive.’’
Having been a prosecutor for two years, “he was the one that the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender fed their young to,’’ said Corey. “He was rough and rugged on all of them.’’
He even sent one fledgling prosecutor to jail.
Assistant State Attorney Greg Lattimer, age 25 in 1982, ran afoul of Mapp during an armed robbery trial. Mapp was an acting circuit court judge at the time.