Students, faculty remember UF law school trailblazer W. George Allen
W. George Allen, the first African American graduate from the University of Florida’s law school, was memorialized at a November event coordinated by his namesake student association at UF. Allen, 83, died at his Ft. Lauderdale home on November 7.
Allen was a 1958 graduate of Florida A&M University with acceptances from the Harvard and Berkeley law schools but instead choose to go to UF, because that was “where the action was” on civil rights, said Taariq Lewis, program director for the W. George Allen Chapter of the Black Law Students Association, at the memorial event held a week after Allen’s death.
“He made a sacrifice of us. He did not have to go through the racial abuse he did. But he did it for us,” Lewis said. “Use his bravery as motivation to make sacrifices throughout your career to fight for the downtrodden, to fight for justice wherever you see it’s lacking.”
“By coming to this school, he opened the door for all of us,” said law Prof. Kevin Nunn. “It’s clear I wouldn’t be teaching here if it weren’t for George Allen. He opened the door for me. He opened the door for all of the African American students who followed him. He opened the door for all of the students from different backgrounds. He was not satisfied just doing what he was doing here at UF. He was an activist in the community. He was an activist all of his life.”
Allen was began law school in 1959, 10 years after Virgin Hawkins’ application was rejected (the state would eventually ignore a U.S. Supreme Court order to admit Hawkins) and one year after another African American student was admitted. That student eventually left because of harassment, but Allen vowed to persevere, ignoring dangers including anonymous telephone threats and even teaching his kids to shoot a rifle given to him by his father.
“George Allen, … made history by becoming the first African American graduate of the entire University of Florida, but of course the first graduate of UF law as well,” said UF Law Dean Laura Rosenbury. “George Allen was a true trailblazer, both here at the University of Florida and throughout the state. We are proud to call him one of our alums.”
Allen was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1963, and practiced until he retired in 2014.
A video of the memorial event at UF can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/1807540269519731/posts/2434882280118857?vh=e&d=n&sfns=mo.