George Eli Bunnell, of Fort Lauderdale, FL, passed away peacefully on July 20th surrounded by family and close friends after complications from a stroke. He was a loving father, grandfather, brother, mentor, and friend.
A fourth-generation Floridian, George was a descendant of Alva Alonzo Bunnell, an early settler who gave Bunnell, Florida, the county seat of Flagler County, its name.
George was born in Miami and attended Miami Beach High School where he was a debate team champion along with his debate partner, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. An athlete, he held long-standing state records in the 440 and the mile relay.
After graduating with honors from the University of Florida's undergraduate and law schools, George began practicing law in Miami in 1963. He moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1971 to practice law with his childhood friend, E. Clay Shaw, Jr., former mayor of Fort Lauderdale and a long-serving congressman. George later founded a pre-eminent defense firm, which ultimately became Bunnell & Woulfe. George served as the third president of the Fort Lauderdale Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates of which he was a founding member, and he helped found the Stephen R. Booher Inn of Court. He loved the law, was a passionate and skilled advocate for his clients, and a mentor to many.
"George was an amazing mentor. He was the consummate lawyer, brilliant, charismatic, prepared, and nimble, a man of unquestionable integrity. He not only served as a great role model, but encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming a judge. I was indeed fortunate to call him partner, mentor, and friend," said Melanie May, a former partner and appellate court judge.
George was an active participant in state and national politics, serving on the advance teams and providing valued counsel for Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. He was also deeply engaged in the local community, serving on several boards including the Fort Lauderdale Art Museum and the Lauderdale Yacht Club, where he was its legal officer.
Above all, George valued the company of family and friends, and was appreciated for his quick wit, irreverent jokes, and his penchant for enjoying life.
"I learned many things from my dad including boating, hunting and fishing, and the importance of levity and laughing. He also emphasized the value of hard work and encouraged me to strive to be my best," said daughter Courtney Lewis, "Perhaps most significantly, he taught me that I could do it all as well as the guys and to not fear defeat."
He is survived by his children Kelley Binder of Colorado and Courtney Lewis (Nick) of Virginia; his children's mother Pearl Burke of St. Augustine, FL; sisters Diana Busby of Atlanta, Rosemary Bunnell and brother Richard Bunnell (Carmen), both of Miami; two nieces Karen and Jennifer; nephew Christopher; and four grandchildren Joshua George Binder, Lily Binder, Riley Binder, and Jackson Schranck.
George's intellect, charm, style, and witty phrases lit up every room. He will be missed but will still be a beacon of light for all who knew him. A celebration of life service will be held this fall in Fort Lauderdale bringing together friends and family. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to support ovarian research at www.ocrahope.org
Published by Sun-Sentinel on Aug. 22, 2021.