One hundred years ago, Leroy V. Holsberry relocated his family and law practice to Pensacola from his native West Virginia. This year marks the centennial of the law firm he established here, which for the last several decades has been known as Emmanuel, Sheppard and Condon.
Patrick G. Emmanuel has been with the firm for 67 years, two-thirds of its operation.
After earning a law degree at the University of Florida and serving in World War II, Emmanuel returned to Pensacola to start what became a long and prestigious legal career. “At that time, Pensacola was a small town. I was looking for a job and J.E.D. Yonge, head of Yonge, Beggs, and Lane, recommended—I was single—he recommended I go to Miami,” Emmanuel remembered with a chuckle. “Fortunately, I didn’t take his advice.”
At the time Emmanuel joined in 1946, the firm was named Holsberry & Holsberry, as Leroy’s son Edwin had joined the practice. Emmanuel became a partner within one year, and his name has been attached to the firm since.
Alan Sheppard, also a veteran of World War II, joined the firm in 1952; Alphonse G. Condon Jr., was hired in 1965. By 1975 the firm was named Holsberry, Emmanuel, Sheppard, Mitchell and Condon. Wilmer Mitchell left the firm to operate Seville Quarter and Edwin Holsberry, who had been with the firm since 1929, retired not long after.
At that point, “We decided to change the name and forever keep the name Emmanuel, Sheppard and Condon,” explained current firm president Alan Bookman, who joined the firm in 1975 as the tenth attorney on staff.
“We have a lot of people here who are very long term employees—we’ve got at least 15 people who have been here more than 20 years,” Bookman notes. “I think we’re a little bit unique because we have a great number of our employees who have been with us long term, simply because this is a very pleasant, caring place.”
The firm’s founder, as well as its namesakes, set the pace for the high level of involvement in bar associations and charitable organizations that the firm’s current attorneys continue.
Leroy Holsberry, who died in 1958, served as the first president of the Pensacola Kiwanis Club. Subsequently, the firm’s attorneys have remained active as members and leaders in the local Escambia-Santa Rosa Bar Association, the Florida Bar Association, and multiple charities, churches and synagogues. Several in the firm have served on the board of Fiesta of Five Flags, and the firm became the sponsor of the celebration’s opening event in the early 2000s.
After working for decades in a number of capacities with the state bar, Emmanuel served as president of the Florida Bar Association from 1985 to 1986. Emmanuel also served as the Chairman of the Federal Judicial Nominating Commission of Florida. When asked if he ever considered a judgeship, Emmanuel shook his head, “I wasn’t interested in that, I just liked practicing law.”
“The culture and philosophy of this firm is that we want to give back to the community and the bar associations,” said Bookman, who, from 2005 to 2006, became the second lawyer from the firm to serve as President of the Florida Bar Association, which now has over 100,000 members. “We’re very lucky, very fortunate. The community has been good to us; we want to be good to the community.”
Now with 26 attorneys on staff, the firm has maintained gradual growth since Emmanuel became partner in the late 1940s. Gradual is how Mr. Emmanuel, now 92, said he would like to see future growth progress as well.
Currently planning for a centennial party in October, Bookman looks forward to continuing the firm’s tradition of service to the law and the community. “We expect to be here another hundred years, at least. We have grown with Pensacola, and we want to continue to grow with Pensacola and Northwest Florida.”