During the past several generations there have been few wholesome movements on foot in Walton County, for economic and intellectual development, that have not commanded the support of one or more members of the Gillis family. These men have always been noted for the firm grasp they have maintained on the large essentials of human progress and business and professional advancement, and Hon. D. Stuart Gillis has proved no exception to this rule. He has developed into one of those broad-gauged representatives of the best element of DeFuniak Springs, whose standing in the legal profession is high, and whose competent discharge of the duties of several high offices has been in perfect conformity with his public-spirited desire to witness further progress.
Judge Gillis was born November 5, 1879, at Freeport, Walton County, Florida, and is a son of Angus McIntosh and Nannie (McLean) Gillis, natives of Florida. His father, a well-known physician, practiced for many years at Campbelltown, Washington County, and Freeport, Walton County, and was a man who was held in the highest esteem. During the war between the states, when his father was called into the Confederate service, Doctor Gillis served as his substitute, as a private in a Florida volunteer infantry regiment. He was wounded during his service, but recovered and rejoined his regiment, and was later captured and held prisoner for some time. At the close of the war, he returned to the practice of his profession and continued therein during the remainder of his life.
D. Stuart Gillis received his early education in the public schools of Walton County, following which he pursued a course at the state normal school at DeFuniak Springs. While attending the normal school he also taught school in Walton County. In 1902 and 1903 Judge Gillis attended the Boston Conservatory of Music, where he took vocal lessons, with the intention of entering upon a musical career. However, throat trouble developed, and he was forced to give up his cherished ambitions as a singer. Returning to DeFuniak Springs he took up the study of law and in 1904 was made deputy clerk of the court. This position he also held in 1905 and 1906 and at the same time served as town clerk and town treasurer, and during all this period was also applying himself assiduously to the study of his profession in the office of Judge L. J. Reeves. He then attended the Cumberland Law School of Cumberland, Tennessee, graduating therefrom in 1908 with the degree of Bachelor of Laws, and took his examination before the Supreme Court of Florida, being admitted to the bar in the same year. He began practice at once at DeFuniak Springs, and in 1909 was appointed judge of the Criminal Court of Record by the governor. Resigning from this office in 1910, he resumed his law practice, but in 1912 was elected to the office of judge of the Criminal Court of Record and occupied that position until the court was abolished in 1913 by an act of Legislature. Judge Gillis was elected to the Legislature to serve his district and was a member of that body at the special session called by the governor in 1918, and a member of the regular session of the Legislature of 1919. In 1912-13-14 he was mayor of the Town of DeFuniak Springs. From June 1919 to January 1921, he was assistant attorney general of the State of Florida. In all his official capacities he has displayed a high order of ability, unswerving fidelity to the duties of his positions and marked energy in their discharge.
On April 3, 1912, at DeFuniak Springs, Judge Gillis was united in marriage with Miss Bernice Morrison, daughter of Malcolm M. and Chrissie (Bowers) Morrison, the latter of whom still survives. Mr. Morrison, who was engaged in the real estate, sawmill, and timber business, is now deceased. Two children have been born to Judge and Mrs. Gillis: Lucy, born in August 1913, who died in April 1919; and Catherine Stuart. Judge and Mrs. Gillis are members of the Presbyterian Church, in which he is serving as deacon. Politically, he is a democrat, and his fraternal affiliations are with the Masons and the Knights of Pythias.
Cutler, H. G., ed. History of Florida: Past and Present, Volume II. Chicago: Lewis Publishing, 1923, p. 33.
Burial: Magnolia Cemetery, DeFuniak Springs