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Scholarship honors FSU’s first black football player

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Scholarship honors FSU’s first black football player

A $100,000 gift from two Florida State University College of Law alumni has endowed a scholarship that pays tribute to the university’s first African-American football player.

Tommy Warren, a prominent Tallahassee civil rights lawyer who graduated in 1974, and his wife, Kathy Villacorta, a 1977 graduate, have established the Calvin Patterson Civil Rights Endowed Scholarship to enrich the College of Law. Specifically, the scholarship will provide support for students who have demonstrated significant interest in and commitment to furthering civil rights in general and, in particular, the rights of African-Americans in employment, voting, education, or housing, and who are committed to practicing law in those areas.

The scholarship honors Calvin Patterson, who broke a significant racial barrier at Florida State when, in 1968, he became the first African-American football player and a civil rights groundbreaker. Patterson died in 1972. The scholarship is to be used to further civil rights similar to those championed by Patterson.

Like many other African-Americans who led the fight for equal rights for African-Americans in the 1960s, Patterson broke the color line and endured insults, threats, and intimidation, said Warren, a teammate who came to Florida State in 1966 on a football scholarship and roomed with Patterson in the football dorm. “His efforts allowed other African-Americans to follow in his footsteps by attaining equal access to and scholarships from FSU and its football program.

“Calvin helped me to broaden my outlook on race issues at a crucial point in my life,” said Warren in a column he wrote for FSU Voices: An Informal History of 150 Years, published in 2002.

My wife and I have long been committed to the elimination of racial discrimination,” he said. “It is our hope that this scholarship will guarantee that there will continue to be attorneys committed to fighting discrimination until it is eliminated from our society.”

FSU Law Dean Don Weidner thanked Warren and Villacorta, saying: “Tommy and Kathy are committed to education and to the law practice that makes life better for all members of our community, and we are extremely grateful.”

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