Fans of award-winning writer Carl Hiaasen usually associate his name with one of his many novels set in Miami or with the Miami Herald, where he contributes a column. But few know that his grandfather Carl Andreas Hiaasen was a Fort Lauderdale pioneer.
The elder Hiaasen was born in North Dakota in 1894. After earning a law degree at the University of North Dakota in 1922, he was enticed to come to booming Fort Lauderdale by World War I buddy Charles McCune. Hiaasen gladly went south to seek adventure but his plan was to return home.
The native North Dakotan’s early adventures in Florida included teaching and preaching. Then McCune asked him to join a law firm—Fort Lauderdale’s first—that he established with attorney C.P. Weidling; Hiaasen took up his friend’s offer and never returned to North Dakota.
He didn’t have much time to think about home. There was enough work at the law office to keep two dozen lawyers busy 24 hours a day. Hopeful developers were flocking to the fledgling Fort Lauderdale (established in 1915) and needed legal expertise for their land deals.
The firm became known as McCune Hiaasen and later McCune, Hiaasen, Kelley (and Fleming was added). Carl Hiaasen served as Port Everglades attorney, as counsel to Hollywood founder Joseph Young, to the City of Fort Lauderdale and to a number of other high-profile clients.
Hiaasen married and had one son Kermit Odell, who also practiced law and is father of today’s novelist, Carl Hiaasen. The senior Carl Hiaasen worked until his firm disbanded in 1990. During his career, the Fort Lauderdale pioneer was lauded in at least eight Who’s Who books and was a member of the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1926. He died at his Coral Ridge home in June, 1994, a few weeks after his 100th birthday. Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.
Palm Beach Post, Feb. 14, 1935
Miami News, April 12, 1950Boca Raton News, June 16, 1994
Weidling, Philip J. , Burghard, August. Checkered Sunshine. Gainesville: University of Florida Press (1966).
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