Attorney J. Ben Watkins, 88, passed away on Saturday, Aug. 10 after a brief illness.

A local icon, Watkins was a prominent businessman, landowner and generous philanthropist who took a special interest in animals, children and the elderly. Many of his charitable works were carried out anonymously.

Watkins graduated from Stetson Law School in Gulfport in 1949 and later served on the Board of Overseers for the school. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Tom Sebring, served as director of the Florida Trial Lawyers' Association, and was president of the Franklin County Bar Association. He maintained a trial practice in Miami, Tallahassee, Apalachicola and Carrabelle.

In 1998, the Stetson Law Review established the "J. Ben Watkins Award for Professional Excellence in the Practice of Law" as a tribute to his service to Stetson and the legal profession.

Watkins established the J. Ben Watkins Private Foundation to assist the less fortunate and further their educational goals. He was a founding member of the Community Foundation of North Florida.

He was a driving force for the establishment of the Eastpoint branch of the Franklin County Library and made substantial contributions to literacy programs over the years.

The Franklin County Humane Society named a recently opened play yard at the shelter in his honor.

At Watkins’ request, there will be no service.