When W. George Allen (JD 62) became the first African- American to graduate from the University of Florida in 1962, it was not only a victory for him, but also for countless others who had fought for equality for decades at the university.
On Oct. 12, the University of Florida and UF Levin College of Law celebrated the 50th anniversary of Allen’s graduation from UF Law by looking back at the struggle leading to the acceptance of black students at the university and the groundwork laid for future generations by Virgil Hawkins, whose persistence in the courts led to UF Law’s integration, and George Starke, the first black person admitted to UF Law.
The Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom was filled to capacity and visitors filed into overflow areas as speakers reflected on the civil rights struggle and Allen’s role.
Allen delivered the keynote speech, where he described his experience at UF Law as both bitter and sweet. He said he was met with much opposition when he began law school in September of 1960 as the only black student on campus. He said one of the sweet parts came when he realized that he was a direct beneficiary of the compromise made by Hawkins when he withdrew his application from the law school in exchange for the university agreeing to accept black students.
“Another sweet part was that (my wife) Enid and I realized we were engaging in an era that would open up higher education in Florida for all, including our children, our grandchildren, and many of you and your progeny,” Allen said.
Go to the UF Law website at www.law.ufl.edu/ for a link to a webcast of this event.