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Fred Levin's Life Chronicled In New Book

Finn Partners

In his new book, New York Times bestselling author Josh Young provides a detailed and insightful portrait of one of the nation’s most successful and contentious civil trial lawyers, Fred Levin of Pensacola. A meet with the author and his subject will be held at 4:00 p.m. Saturday, September 20 at Barnes and Noble on Airport Boulevard.

The biography And Give Up Showbiz?: How Fred Levin Beat Big Tobacco, Avoided Two Murder Prosecutions, Became Chief of Ghana, Earned Boxing Manager of the Year, and Transformed American Law examines the unorthodox career path and life of a lawyer who was dogged by two murder investigations, three attempts to disbar him, a successful excursion into professional boxing management, a dysfunctional family life, and oh, yes, a legal career that included civil rights activism and huge lawsuit victories and settlements that saved lives and reformed the tobacco, drug, and auto industries.

“It came about because I had always been fascinated by flamboyant lawyers such as F. Lee Bailey and Johnny Cochran,” said Young, who was introduced to Fred Levin by actor and businessman Wayne Rogers. Young had also written Rogers’ biography.

“I really was a superstar and nobody could have loved me better than I loved myself,” said Levin after listing his many accomplishments from the $10 million gift that led to the University Of Florida College Of Law being named for him and his induction into the Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame.  But, Levin admits he was not the greatest husband and father and saw the book as an “opportunity for me to ask forgiveness, too late; but at the same time let people know there’s more to life than me, me, me.”

Levin was the son of a pawnbroker and dog track manager and says he enjoyed growing up in Pensacola in the prosperous post-World War II years of the 1950s.

He just made it through college, struggling to pass with a GPA that barely eclipsed the minimum 2.0 needed to graduate.  But he turned it around in law school, graduating third in his class.

Throughout his illustrious and controversial legal career, Levin made millions of dollars litigating personal injury cases, while also making headlines for his outspoken candor.

In the book, Young notes the characterization of Levin as “a philanthropist and a cockroach” by one of his sons. He says trial lawyers are much like cockroaches in that they are thought to be repulsive and, despite efforts to eliminate them, they continue to thrive.  The difference, he says, is that the trial lawyer serves humanity well. “Look, if you want to get justice against big business or big corporations and you’re the little guy, there’s really no place else for you to turn. That dichotomy really threads through the book as does this sort of hero/villain; is he (Levin) a hero or a villain?," said Young, noting that every time Levin does well for himself, he does good for other people.

Levin has enjoyed a still-thriving legal career that spans over a half-century and includes many influential friendships, such as US presidential candidates Jack Kemp, Bob Graham, Reubin Askew, Gary Hart, and John Edwards; and sports figures Muhammad Ali, Emmitt Smith, Don King, and Roy Jones Jr. 

But, Levin is most known and most proud of his role in writing the statute that brought down Big Tobacco in the largest legal settlement ever – almost $300 Billion dollars. “That clearly was the shining point in my life as far as the practice of law,” said Levin, noting that the legislation has been credited with saving the lives of thousands people each year by reducing smoking.

Levin says his biggest regret is what he did to his family. All of the good and bad is included in the book And Give Up Showbiz? Levin wants readers of the book to learn from his mistakes. He says all proceeds will benefit the University of Florida and Florida State University.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.