ETSU grad now influential Florida judge

Published 12:11 pm Thursday, August 24, 2023

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JOHNSON CITY – When he arrived in the Appalachian Highlands more than 40 years ago, he knew no one.

Nearly a half century later, J. Frank Porter has lifelong friends from Johnson City – and an impressive professional career.

Judge Porter made headlines earlier this summer when his colleagues named him the next Chief Judge of the Twentieth Judicial Court in Florida. It’s a prestigious position covering a range of counties in the Sunshine State.

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The training he received at East Tennessee State University provided a sturdy foundation from which he launched a successful legal career.

“I arrived in Johnson City not knowing a soul,” said Judge Porter. “ETSU was the perfect size campus to adjust to the college experience.”

A member of the class of 1982, Judge Porter earned a bachelor’s degree from the university before graduating from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University.

“I was fortunate to have the late Dr. Sam McKinstry as my advisor,” he said. “He helped prepare me for law school while taking his political science classes.”

Judge Porter served in private law practice until then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush appointed him as a Lee County Judge in 2001 and then a Circuit Judge two years later. He has earned a range of commendations through the years and been a guest lecturer at Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida SouthWestern State College.

ETSU has thousands of living alumni working in a diverse array of fields. The university places a premium on hands-on learning with a goal of helping students shift from enrolled to employed.

“ETSU provided me with a great education and lifelong friends,” said Judge Porter. “Go Bucs!”