UF Law celebrates 50th graduation anniversary of UF’s first black graduate
By Matt Walker
The University of Florida Levin College of Law will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the graduation of W. George Allen with a special afternoon program at the law school. In 1962, Allen helped pave the way for generations of students in Florida by becoming the first African-American to graduate from the University of Florida and UF Law.
The celebration will be held Oct. 12, at 3 p.m. in UF Law’s Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom. It is co-sponsored by the University of Florida Alumni Association and Association of Black Alumni, Levin College of Law and Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations. The event is free and open to the public.
The program will be hosted by UF Association of Black Alumni President Terry Nealy and Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations Director Katheryn Russell-Brown, with comments from UF Law Dean Robert Jerry, UF Provost Joseph Glover, Northern Florida District Judge Stephan Mickle and attorney Harley Herman. There will also be reflections from UF Law alumni and attorneys including Ava Parker and Chris Chestnut.
Presentations will feature a keynote speech from Allen, a look back at the desegregation of Florida and the legacy of Virgil Hawkins. Hawkins was denied admission to UF Law in 1949 based solely on his race and fought for admission until 1958, when he withdrew his application in exchange for a Florida Supreme Court order desegregating UF’s graduate and professional schools.
The celebration will conclude with the unveiling of a special plaque on the UF Law campus honoring Allen.
Allen was accepted into UF Law in 1960, after he graduated from Florida A&M and served two years in the Army. Living in California at the time, Allen turned down law school admissions to Berkeley and Harvard. He said he was intent on returning to the South to be where the “action” was, referring to the civil rights struggles that were bubbling to the surface.
After graduating from UF Law in 1962, Allen moved to Fort Lauderdale, where he helped lead the fight for the integration of Broward County’s public school system, and established his own practice, where he has specialized in trial work, probate, personal injury, insurance defense and wrongful death law.
Earlier on Oct. 12 at UF Law, the CSRRR will moderate the panel discussion, “Leadership and Law: Diverse Perspectives on the Role of Race and Participation in Professional Legal Organizations.” The event begins with a reception and luncheon at noon, followed by the discussion from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The panel will feature leaders from national, state, and local bar associations looking at how race has influenced the past, present and future of their respective organization. The goal of the event is to foster a dialogue on avenues for leadership and joint initiatives that transcend racial and other divides. RSVP here.
The symposium is a joint initiative of UF Law’s Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations, the 8th Judicial Circuit Bar Association, and the Josiah T. Walls Bar Association.
The 3 p.m. Allen celebration kicks off UF’s Black Alumni Weekend in Gainesville, Oct. 12 to 14. The weekend honors civil rights pioneers who were instrumental in desegregating the state’s universities and offers the opportunity to reunite Gators from every decade so they leave Gainesville closer and stronger than ever before. Read more. (Note: Details of some BAW events are tentative. Check the site closer to the weekend for finalized information.)