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In 1925, during the height of the Great Florida Land Boom, attorney J. J. Williams Jr. arrived in Sarasota by ferry, establishing what would become Sarasota’s oldest and largest law firm. For nearly a century, Williams Parker has helped guide the growth and prosperity of Sarasota’s skyline and neighborhoods, its banks, schools, public hospital, thriving airport, and many of the enduring and iconic institutions responsible for the area’s good fortune and character. Navigating through the Great Depression and into the post-WWII boom, the firm added young, military-veteran attorneys Parker, Harrison, Dietz, and Getzen, assisting real estate titans in turning southwest Florida into some of the most coveted property in the world. Through the 1960s, Williams Parker helped develop Bird, Lido, and Longboat keys. Booms and expansion occurred again in the 1990s, 2000s, and today—the firm expanding and diversifying each time to meet its clients’ growing and complex needs while always staying true to our founding partners' vision and principles.

THE FIRM

COMMUNITY

1925

1925

Firm Founded

JJ Williams, Jr. hangs a shingle and briefly is sole practitioner at Commercial Court on Central between First and Third. Williams joins Sidney Rawson Perry forming Perry & Williams on top floor (7th floor) of First Bank and Trust Building, later called the Palmer Bank Building. Firm briefly was Williams, Perry & Williamson.

JJ Williams, Jr. came to Sarasota during a major land boom. No ordinary young lawyer, he was the son of a powerful mayor of Memphis at a time when that city was booming and expanding. Learning from his father, the younger Williams watched as ...
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1925

Height of the Florida Land Boom

1925

Williams Organizes Venice-Nokomis Bank

1926

1926

John Ringling Bridge Built

John Ringling Bridge built to Lido and Longboat. Two bridges built to Siesta Key. Lido Beach Casino opens.

1927

1927

Sarasota Becomes Winter Home for Ringling Brothers

Sarasota becomes winter home to the Ringling Brothers Circus; John Ringling is the last surviving Ringling brother and speculates intensely in Sarasota land.

1929

1929

Great Depression Begins

1929

New firm formed as Williams & Dart

Attorney Sydney R. Perry died August 16, 1929. New firm formed as Williams & Dart (with FW Dart).

1930

1930

Florida population 1.5 million

1930

Lowe’s Field opens as Sarasota’s airport

1933

1933

JJ Williams serves as Sarasota City Attorney

Served 1933-1934 & 1936-1938

1934

1934

Williams Serves As Founding Director of United First Federal Savings

Williams serves as founding director and attorney of the United First Federal Savings and Loan Association.

1937

1937

Williams Helps Found Sarasota State Bank

1937

F. Willis Dart Dies

F. Willis Dart died August 1937; son Francis Dart takes father’s place in firm. Francis Dart was the County Judge of Sarasota County.

1938

1938

Sarasota Municipal Auditorium opens

1940

1940

Florida population 1.9 million

Annual tourists 1 million

1941

1941

Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority Established

1942

1942

Longboat Key used as a bombing range

1945

1945

Post-war Florida boom

1950

1950

Arthur Bell Joins as Partner

Bell joins as partner, firm is now Williams Dart & Bell. Arthur Bell was son of firm’s longtime client Tom Bell. Mallory Frier was an associate at the firm in the late 40’s, left to practice in Gibsenton, FL.

1950

Florida population 2.7 million

Annual tourists between 6 and 8 million

1950

Florida Bar Formed

Florida Bar formed; UK PUD laws created; The Twin Motels opens on US 41 starting the tourism boom in Southwest Florida.

1951

1951

Florida Bar Exam now mandatory

1953

1953

W. Davis Parker Joins Firm

By February 1925, W. Davis Parker—second founder of the Williams Parker law firm—was in Sarasota from his native Georgia, a young child, just five years old, the middle boy of three sons. His father, Jere Parker and mother Kathleen (nee Davis), had brought the young family with them to the boomtown on the bay where Jere would work for the thriving newspaper industry as a typesetter until the dawn of World War II, when reduced fortunes would see him move his family to Atlanta. While in Sarasota in those early years, Jere Parker regularly made the papers for his appearances around town as

1953

Ringling Isles Master Plan approved by city

1953

William T. Harrison, Jr. Joins Firm

At the same time that Parker was joining the firm, Williams was interviewing and about to hire perhaps the single most influential attorney he would ever take on: William Thomas Harrison, Jr. Scholar, athlete and musician, Bill Harrison played piccolo in the University of Florida marching band. Harrison was also a young Korean War combat veteran with an enviable pedigree. His father was Judge William T. Harrison of Manatee County whose tenure ran from 1923 until 1959, serving an original circuit that covered eight counties, from Manatee to Everglades City to Winter Haven. Born in the family

1954

1954

Legal counsel for Sarasota Memorial Hospital

1955

1955

Legal Counsel for Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority

Firm begins serving as legal counsel for Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority

1955

Firm Helps Found William G. and Marie Selby Foundation

Firm assists in establishing the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation.

1955

George A. Dietz Joins the Firm

Born in St. Petersburg, Florida, George attended the University of Florida College of Law School and served in the Korean War as a JAG officer in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining Williams Parker in Sarasota in 1955, becoming a name partner of the firm in 1959.

George specialized in real estate law and was instrumental in developing much of Sarasota County and Longboat Key, including the Meadows, Bay Isles, and the Longboat Key Club.

Throughout his career, George was active in community affairs and in the broader legal community. He served as the president of the Greater

1956

1956

Williams Dart & Bell dissolves

Dart and Bell leave and form own firm. Williams practices with Parker, Harrison, and Dietz.

1958

1958

Historic Asolo Theater Opens

Historic Asolo Theater opens in current location; S 41 rerouted; Puerto Rico’s Horizontal Property Act

1958

Williams, Parker, Harrison, Dietz forms

January 1, Williams, Parker, Harrison, Dietz forms

1959

1959

William E. Getzen joins firm

William E. Getzen joins the firm from Illinois Law; Firm involved with ARVIDA, schools, and US 41 development

1959

Arvida purchases Ringling Isles

Arvida purchases Ringling Isles and properties; Drawbridge to Lido replaces Ringling Bridge

1960

1960

Florida population 5 million

Annual tourists 10 million

1960

New College established

1962

1962

James L. Ritchey joins

James L. Ritchey joins firm; installs first copy machine at firm

1963

1963

Moved to State Street office

Move to State Street office, 1538 State Street, room for 12 attorneys; IZ Mann builds Sarasota’s first condominiums at Sarasota Harbor West

1968

1968

Firm Establishes Name As Williams Parker Harrison Dietz & Getzen

Firm establishes name as Williams Parker Harrison Dietz & Getzen; JJ Williams Jr. dies age 82

1968

Save Our Bays Launched

Save Our Bays launched & dredging outlawed in Sarasota.

1970

1970

Florida population 6.8 million

Annual tourists 20 million

1970

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall opens.

1971

1971

Disney World opens

1973

1973

Firm Builds Office at Orange and Ringling

New building at 1550 Ringling Blvd (200 S. Orange); decision to buy and build over leasing at United First Federal Building, JJ Williams does not live to see new building; Taylor Woodrow purchases land for The Meadows

1974

1974

Oil shortage recession through 1975

1975

1975

Charles D. Bailey Jr. Joins Firm

1977

1977

J. Michael Hartenstine joins firm

1978

1978

Michele Boardman Grimes Joins as First Female Attorney

1979

1979

Building Expanded

Building expanded

1979

Community Foundation of Sarasota County formed

Community Foundation of Sarasota County formed; I-75 reaches Sarasota

1980

1980

Florida population 9.75 million

Annual tourists 20 million

1980

William M. Seider Joins Firm

William M. Seider joins firm after clerking for Florida Supreme Court Justice Overton

1980

Mote Aquarium opens on City Island

1982

1982

Davis Parker dies

Davis Parker died 62 years old (married to Charlotte Williams)

1987

1987

Sunshine Skyway Bridge opens

1989

1989

Ed Smith Stadium opens

1990

1990

Florida population 13 million

Annual tourists 40 million

1991

1991

Second building expansion

1993

1993

Manatee County approves Lakewood Ranch

1995

1995

First home sales in Lakewood Ranch

1997

1997

Patterson Foundation formed

2000

2000

Florida population 16 million

Annual tourists 42 million

2003

2003

Ringling Bridge to Lido opens

2006

2006

William Seider named firm president

2008

2008

Global Financial Crisis

2010

2010

Florida population 18.8 million

Annual tourists 82.3 million

2014

2014

Florida surpasses New York as third most populous US state after California and Texas

2014

Williams Parker launches Requiste

Williams Parker launches Requiste publication.

2014

Barancik Foundation Forms; UTC Mall Opens

The Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation is formed. The mall at University Town Center opens. 

2015

2015

Ric Gregoria named firm president

Ric Gregoria named firm president (to present); firm begins expansion and modernization of practices

2015

105 million tourists visit Florida

First year the number of annual tourists to Florida surpasses 100 million.

2018

2018

200 S. Orange sold

2019

2019

Florida population 21.5 million

Annual tourists 125 million (2018)

2019

The Bay Master Plan phase 1

2020

2020

Firm Celebrates 95th Anniversary

Williams Parker celebrates its 95th anniversary and pays tribute to late founding partners Harrison and Dietz, who were instrumental not only in establishing the strength, stability, and culture of the firm but also in shaping the community itself.