Alumni Profile: Evelyn Davis Golden
Golden is now an attorney with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Atlanta and has worked as a public servant for almost all of her career since law school.
Golden’s office is responsible for enforcing regulation of multifamily housing developments insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)and making sure owners keep their property in decent, safe and sanitary condition for the tenants.
“Before going to New York I had somewhat of a background and life experiences that indicated that civil rights would be something I’d be interested in,” Golden said. Golden watched her parents and neighbors carpool to go to the polling place to vote for John F. Kennedy. “There was security in going to the poll together.”
Golden was born in 1951 in segregated Moultrie, Ga., and lived there until moving to New York in 1963. Since graduating from the UF College of Law in 1976, she has held numerous government jobs including assistant attorney general for Florida, assistant public defender for Orange County and Orange County judge.
Although Golden had done well in the segregated schools in Moultrie, many in her new home of New York did not expect her education to be up to par.
“When I first came, they said, ‘Oh these A’s can’t be representative of what her educational level is,’” Golden said. “They tested me and found out, in fact, that they were. They placed me in gifted classes, called special progress classes up there… Things changed for me after that.”
Golden attributed her success throughout school to both her parents and her teachers back in Moultrie. She was taught by an all-black faculty in Moultrie that pushed her to work her hardest.
“They didn’t accept that because you were black and poor that you couldn’t learn – that you came from poverty, so you weren’t worth the effort,” Golden said. “Everybody was challenged; everybody was expected to succeed, and the majority did.”
When Golden transferred to UF Law after her first year at Brooklyn Law School, she had a new obstacle to face – gender discrimination.
Although she was raised in the South during segregation, the gender discrimination was bad to her because she was older and more conscious of it.
“When you’re young, you kind of know that you’re being slighted, but you’re not sure,” Golden said. “Of course, some things were very obvious. Every summer we went to the vacation reading club at the public library. There was a Negro section and there was a white section when I was in elementary [school.] Every year, I got my little certificate for completing all of the vacation reading for the summer, and I was always very proud of that.”
At UF, a couple of professors were openly sexist to her, but that was relatively common in the early 1970s, she said.
“When I went to the University of Florida, it was kind of scary because I had never had some of the challenges that I faced there,” Golden said. “I went to school at a time when we’d (women) walk into the library, people would shuffle their feet because I was a woman.”
Golden, who was married, got pregnant in law school and continued through law school pregnant. An employment law professor constantly questioned her in class about pregnancy discrimination laws, and an evidence professor did not give her a research position because she was pregnant.
“He said that I should be home knitting blue booties, not knitting booties, but blue booties for the baby,” Golden said (Golden has two grown daughters). “So I had some interesting experiences there, but overall, the faculty was very fair and I enjoyed property classes, so I ended up doing property. Even though the professor was horrible to me, I enjoyed employment law.”
Although Golden did not notice any obvious racial discrimination toward her at UF, it has come up in her career.
“When I was a judge, it was weird, there were people that didn’t like me because I was black and I was a judge, and they didn’t mind showing me,” Golden said. “Here I have the power to put you in jail, and you’re disrespecting me. It was a total disconnect. I found that interesting. But in most of my career, I can’t say that, even though I felt there were some judges that I felt were discriminatory, I can’t say I suffered tremendously from that.”
Golden began working for HUD in 2000 as Attorney Advisor in the Departmental Enforcement Center (DEC) before a stint in the Fair Housing Division, where she assisted in clearing up a backlog of pending fair housing complaints. In July, she moved back to the DEC.
“It’s a lot calmer over here, but at the same time, when you have to abate the housing assistance payments to an owner and relocate a 400-unit development, it can get crazy,” Golden said. “Because you have to move the people out if the place isn’t decent, safe and sanitary and then work with other parts of the agency to find places for them to go.”
For all of Golden’s success in life, she is grateful for her parents encouraging her to get an education.
“My parents, who were not high school graduates, were very educated in their own way (voracious readers of newspapers and magazines) and were very supportive of us getting the best education possible,” Golden said. “They always stressed, ‘If you get an education, nobody can take that away from you.’ They can take away your property, they can take away all kinds of things, but they can’t take away your education, and that was always stressed in our home.”