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Joseph "Joe" Oscar Eaton (April 2, 1920 – September 28, 2008) was an American lawyer and judge.

Eaton was born in 1920 in Monticello, Florida, the son of Mamie Eaton-Greene, who served on the Florida Railroad Commission from 1927 and 1935 and was the first woman elected to a statewide office in Florida.

Eaton served as a captain in the United States Army Air Corps from 1941 to 1945. He graduated from Presbyterian College with an Bachelor of Arts degree in 1945 and from the University of Florida College of Law with an LL.B. in 1948.

Eaton served as assistant county solicitor for Dade County from 1949 to 1951. He was a major in the Air Force from 1951 to 1952. Eaton served briefly as assistant state attorney for Dade County in 1953 before being appointed to Circuit Court, serving as a judge from 1953 to 1954.

Eaton went into private practice in Miami from 1955 to 1959 and was elected a member of the Florida State Senate, serving from 1956 to 1959. Eaton returned to the Circuit Court a second time after leaving the Senate, serving from 1959 to 1967.

President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Eaton to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida on May 24, 1967, to the seat vacated by David W. Dyer. Confirmed by the Senate on June 12, 1967, he received commission on June 12, 1967. Judge Eaton presided over several early civil rights lawsuits challenging the racial composition of the school system population in South Florida. He crafted orders and judgments that represented a watershed in desegregating the South Florida public schools, even under personal threat of harm by those opposed to his decisions. He was a constitutional scholar whose civil rights decisions place him in a class with such jurists as Montgomery, Alabama federal judge Frank Johnson. He served as chief judge from 1982 to 1984 and assumed senior status on April 2, 1985 where he also served, by designation on the Federal Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Eaton died in Miami, Florida on September 28, 2008.


  • Joseph Oscar Eaton at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.

Legal offices
Preceded by
David W. Dyer
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
Succeeded by
Kenneth Ryskamp

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