Owen B. McCaul of Tallahassee is chair of the Board of Trustees at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, which is a state public school and outreach center available at no cost to eligible pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired or deaf-blind.
Previously McCaul served as vice chair for nine years and has been a trustee since 2006, initially appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush. He is the first FSDB alumnus (1982) and the first person who is blind or visually impaired to serve as board chair.
McCaul works as an assistant state attorney in Leon County, a position he has held since 1989. He serves as general counsel for State Attorney Jack Campbell of the 2nd Judicial Circuit of Florida (Leon, Gadsden, Jefferson, Liberty, Wakulla and Franklin Counties).
He represents the State of Florida in Leon County Felony Drug Court, Baker Act hearings, and in numerous extradition matters. He also represents the State Attorney’s office on Leon County's Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee and the Public Safety Coordinating Council. McCaul earned his bachelor’s degree from Flagler College (1985) and a Juris Doctor degree from the Florida State University College of Law (1988).
From bullying to thriving at school
Corrective glasses or contact lenses generally resolve vision issues for people with nearsightedness (myopia). However, for people with extreme nearsightedness (high myopia), it may be difficult to see anything more than a few feet away from the face, even with correction.
McCaul’s extreme nearsightedness was not fully diagnosed until he was 18 months old. He said that “they strapped a pair of glasses to me and I was off!” He also explained that he compensated throughout his school years by learning early on to “fly by the seat of my pants with very few notes. This was very useful when I was handling my felony trial caseload.”
By the time he entered high school, McCaul had experienced bullying about his thick glasses. He persuaded his parents to let him transfer to the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind and says that “there is no question in my mind that FSDB was the right choice — it served as the foundation for my success in college and career as an attorney.”
While at FSDB, McCaul met Dr. William Proctor, then the President of Flagler College, who saw McCaul’s promise even in high school and was pleased McCaul chose Flagler for his bachelor’s degree.
“I was delighted when he was appointed to the FSDB Board of Trustees and extremely pleased to learn of his election as board chair in 2019," Proctor said. "We at Flagler College take considerable pride in Owen McCaul’s many accomplishments, and as a former chairman of the FSDB Board of Trustees myself, I am honored that we share a common legacy.”
A leader in the State Attorney’s Office
Upon completing his Juris Doctor degree from the Florida State University College of Law, McCaul conquered in five months the significant challenges of passing the Florida Bar Exam and being admitted to the Board on his first attempt and securing fulltime employment after a statewide search.
He has remained a member in good standing since 1989. Blind attorneys nationwide are few, and McCaul is the only blind/visually impaired attorney in the Second Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office and is possibly the sole blind or visually impaired prosecutor in Florida.
Campbell, the state attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit, remarked that “Owen McCaul is not only an outstanding attorney, but he is a man I admire and trust. He has been a leader in the State Attorney’s Office for the last 30 years and has risen to the level of division chief, and now, general counsel," Campbell said.
"He is doggedly determined to put in the time and effort required to succeed in every aspect of his life. However, he is also committed to see justice is done… what makes him exceptional is that he tempers his power with humility," Campbell said. "This shows an uncommon level of experience and judgment which I find invaluable to me as state attorney.”
McCaul has been an active leader in the field of blindness and vision impairment outside of the State Attorney’s office. He has served on the City of Tallahassee’s Transit Advisory Council, focused on improving city bus access. He is currently a member of the board of directors at the Lighthouse of the Big Bend.
'You will have to work harder than others'
Last year, the American Foundation for the Blind selected McCaul as one of 16 mentors across the country to be paired with a young blind or visually impaired person just entering leadership.
In his usual direct manner, he says to young people with visual impairments that “It will be harder than you think it will be. Buckle down, do the work. You will have to work harder than others. Get used to it.”
Family is central to McCaul’s life. He met Erica, who is also visually impaired, when they were teens at a Lions Camp for youths with visual impairments, but the connection really took off when they both worked in Tallahassee. “She has run our household for the past 20 years,” she has a master’s degree in Dietetics and is “one of the smartest people I know,” he states proudly.
Like their parents, Patricia (Trisha), 20, and Ian, 17, are highly accomplished. Trisha studies Coastal Environmental Science at Flagler College, and Ian is completing his senior year in high school, active in the band and pursuing Eagle Scout status.
The two have taken part as guides and support FSDB blind alumni events as volunteers. McCaul says, “I have watched them do their work with grace… they go out of their way to treat each person with dignity and respect. Erica and I tell each other they are proof that we’ve done our job well.”
McCaul’s devotion to FSDB, its students and staff members, is clear to anyone who takes part in Board meetings or sees him interacting with students and alumni. “I will always be a staunch supporter of the school’s mission to enable students to do more, be more, and achieve more,” he says with great pride in his alma mater.
Learn more about the FSDB Board of Trustees at www.fsdbk12.org/board-of-trustees
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is a tuition-free state public school and outreach center available to eligible pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired or deafblind. At FSDB, students learn how to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling our vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To inquire about enrollment eligibility or schedule a campus tour, contact Parent Services at 904-827-2212 voice or 904-201-4527 videophone. For more information about FSDB, visit www.fsdbk12.org.