George H. Starke Jr. In His Own Words

No one will ever know how much it meant to me to participate in the Constitution Day Program, and to have the opportunity to tell the story of some of my experiences at the law school and at UF in the first days … . These Experiences were unique.

I mentioned to someone earlier that while I would have come to school at UF in any event once the laws changed, I have long thought it would have been better for me as an individual just to have had the normal struggles to contend with … . UF had a 105-year history of segregation when I first came, and I have to think on reflection that was more difficult to cope with than I anticipated — not because of the few threats, but because of the intangibles and subtleties

I tried to conduct myself as simply another student, and tried to block out all the thoughts about the historical implications of my being there. I wanted to be treated just like everyone else, and … I think in the main I was, although I cannot be 100 percent certain. Fred Levin and others in my class would know more about that than I, since the also know whether anything changed about how they were treated following our third semester.

My plan (upon leaving law school after the third semester) had been to reapply in about five years or so, but it took longer to get to a point where I could even talk about it … . Five years became 10, and 10 became 20, and life intervened. So,  I did not reapply or decide to go elsewhere.

I participated on a panel (during the Constitution Day activities at UF), with one person from each of the decades from the 50s through the 90s. It was very interesting to note how matters evolved at UF over time, with changes in both culture and leadership at institutional and community levels. I think Governor [Leroy] Collins and Dr. [John W.] Reitz set a tone for UF and the state — before and after I was there, which contributed for a long time to the climate and general atmosphere in which minority students, and all others, were able to grow, to organize, to express themselves and to work for what they wanted the University of Florida to become. I was on the Alumni Board of Directors a few years and had the opportunity to vote to establish the Association of Black Alumni. I know there are now to be any number of organizations on the various campuses.

Finally, thank you again for the invitation to participate in the Levin College of Law Constitution Day Program… . I am glad I had an opportunity to learn more about the life and times of Mr. Hawkins. I knew bits and pieces but was impressed with his story. I appreciate his call now more than ever.

— George H. Starke

Excerpted from correspondence to Dean Robert Jerry dated Sept. 25, 2008