JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Northeast Florida legal community icon William “Bill” H. Harrell, Jr., 70, died at his home on Saturday, Oct. 14 surrounded by family following a lengthy battle with cancer. Harrell is best known for founding and leading Harrell & Harrell, P.A. – a personal injury law firm with 18 lawyers and 100 employees that has served the First Coast for more than 25 years.
Harrell was born Oct. 18, 1946 in Lake City, Florida. As the son of a career Air Force pilot, he grew up in places around the world. Harrell attended high school at Mobile, Alabama’s University Military School, where he was a stand-out athlete in basketball and football.
Harrell followed his father’s footsteps attending the University of Florida on a full athletic scholarship in football. After experiencing a career-ending knee injury as a freshman, Harrell followed another family tradition and enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantryman. He was later appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
After completing his military service, Harrell returned to the University of Florida where he was a member of the Florida Blue Key and Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He graduated college with a bachelor’s of science degree in Business Administration in 1971 and married Marsha McLendon Harrell. He put himself through law school at the University of Florida while working as a deputy sheriff for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. He graduated in 1974 and was ultimately inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame in recognition of his leadership, athletic and academic accomplishments.
After law school, Harrell started a firm in Melbourne, Florida, that became the largest multi-specialty law firm on Central Florida’s east coast. Harrell had a varied and remarkable career as a trial lawyer that crossed many fields. He represented diverse clients ranging from individuals to Fortune 500 companies and municipalities. He was AV-rated by Martindale Hubble and board-certified in civil trial law with more than 100 jury trials.Martindale Hubble and board-certified in civil trial law with more than 100 jury trials.
In 1991, Harrell and his family moved to Jacksonville to be closer to his parents and sister. Shortly afterwards, he started Harrell & Harrell, P.A., a widely-known, successful law firm specializing in personal injury. He practiced law at Harrell & Harrell with two of his four children, Holt and Julie as well as his second wife of nearly 20 years, Renee Daigle Harrell.
Holt Harrell – Harrell’s first born and only son – said his father’s dedication to standing up for what was right shaped both his childhood and the family’s law firm.
“I was always proud of the way my father took a stand for whatever he believed in,” Holt Harrell said. “It has been a blessing to practice all of these years with my father and to learn so much from him – on the law, trial work, and law firm management. We are an incredibly close family and will continue to work together to ensure the framework he created continues to be successful as we honor his legacy.”
Renee Harrell, Harrell’s wife and president of the law firm for the past 15 years agrees.
“It would be hard to explain how grateful I am to have been Bill’s wife and for all his love and support, so I’ll focus on the legacy he’s left behind at our firm and in our community,” said Renee Harrell. “The processes he created at Harrell & Harrell were so innovative and powerfully structured, they offer a blueprint that will serve us well into the future. The many ways he’s given back to the community philanthropically will leave an equally lasting impression.”
In terms of industry and civic involvement, Harrell was active in the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers (now known as the FJA), serving on its Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and has received numerous awards for his support of the organization. Harrell was a member of the Shriners as well as Mensa, and a Master in the Masonic Lodge.
He also had a wide variety of personal interests and hobbies. Harrell was a prolific reader, often reading a book a night. He had a passion for boating and sailing, which he often did in the Bahamas—especially Hope Town. After countless vacations in the islands, Harrell could navigate the waters of the Bahamas as if he was a native. Harrell also never forgot his love of Florida football, being a Bull Gator since 1984 and an original skybox owner.
Harrell is survived by his wife, Renee Daigle Harrell; his children, W. Holt Harrell and wife Jessie Harrell, Julie Marie Harrell and husband Matthew Doherty, Susan Elizabeth Harrell, and Kimberly Harrell Chapman and husband Gregory Chapman; his five grandchildren; and his sister, Judge Susan Harrell Black. The family will have a small private service at one of Harrell’s childhood churches in Live Oak, Florida. A celebration of Harrell’s life will be held at a later time. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to either:
Shriners Hospitals for Children
Office of Development
2900 Rocky Point Dr.
Tampa, FL 33607
The American Cancer Society
P.O. Box 22478
Oklahoma City, OK 73123