‘We lost an icon’: Attorney Fred Levin remembered by his colleagues

Northwest Florida

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Those who knew renowned trial lawyer Fred Levin say his losing battle with COVID-19 was a rare defeat.

“The last few days were like all of Fred’s life. He was a fighter,” said lawyer Mike Papantonio. “There was never a possibility that he thought he might not win that fight.”

Levin died Tuesday after battling the virus for just under two weeks.

“He was symptom-free until five days ago, after being diagnosed 10 to 12 days ago,” said Mark Proctor, president of the Levin Papantonio Rafferty law firm.

Levin took a turn for the worse and “began slowly crashing” in the past few days, Proctor said.

He was scheduled to get the COVID-19 vaccine the day he died from it.

“He was a warrior,” Papantonio said. “There aren’t that many warriors.”

With Levin gone, his memory is surely not forgotten. His colleagues spoke Wednesday about his unique ability to win over a jury and his desire to represent the underdog.

“He genuinely loved people and the jury saw that,” Papantonio said. “When he had a client at the table, they saw that the compassion that was being projected by Fred was real.”

Levin is perhaps best known for taking on the tobacco industry, leading to the rewriting the Florida Medicaid Third Party Recovery Act. This permitted the State of Florida to sue the tobacco industry for money to treat illnesses caused by cigarette smoking. It resulted in billions of dollars in settlements against the industry.

He was also a philanthropist, donating millions of dollars to projects in Pensacola, his hometown, and his alma mater, the University of Florida. The university’s law school is named in his honor.

Outside of the courtroom, he managed Pensacola boxer Roy Jones Jr. ringside, adding a “Manager of the Year” trophy to his long list of accolades.

“It took him out of the narrow area of just being a lawyer and made him more human,” Papantonio said.

Levin’s competitive grit helped him as manager of a boxer and inside the courtroom, his colleagues said.

“He loved the fact that people said he couldn’t win a case,” said lawyer Troy Rafferty. “He thrived in that because he loved to fight. He loved to go in there and champion people’s causes.” 

For championing the fight against racial injustice, he was once named a chief of the Republic of Ghana. Levin’s colleagues said he led an extraordinary life, and he will be missed.

“We lost an icon. We lost a titan. A warrior,” Rafferty said. “It’s a loss, but luckily his teachings and what we all learned from him and all the memories will stay with us forever.” 

Levin’s funeral is scheduled for Thursday morning at 11 a.m. It will be streamed on the Levin Papantonio Rafferty law firm’s Facebook page.

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