Center for Law and Justice to Hold Inaugural Event on Nov. 19
The Center for Law and Social Justice at Bethune-Cookman University will host its first official event on Wednesday, Nov. 19. The event will honor the legacy and memory of the late Virgil Hawkins, a 1940s graduate of Bethune-Cookman who was later employed as the Director of Public Relations for the institution.
While working in that capacity, Hawkins dreamed of attending law school but his efforts were rebuffed when the University of Florida denied him admission on the basis of race in 1949. Thus began a 10-year legal battle that took him before the Florida Supreme Court three times and two times before the United States Supreme Court. While he won at the United States Supreme Court level, the State of Florida refused to grant him admission, even going so far as to create the Florida A&M Law School as an alternative.
Finally in 1959, Hawkins agreed to withdraw his application in exchange for a court order requiring the University of Florida to open its doors to its graduate and professional schools to black students. Hawkins never got the chance to attend the University of Florida but continued his pursuit of law school out of state, finally graduating at age 69 in 1976 from the New England Law School, 27 years after his journey began. His personal sacrifice opened the door for desegregation of higher education throughout the State of Florida.
In honoring his memory and to motivate future generations of lawyers and social engineers, the Center will host attorney Eugene Pettis, a graduate of both the University of Florida and University of Florida Law School and the first Black to serve as president of the Florida Bar. Pettis will deliver the keynote address at the Symposium which will be held during the normal Chapel hour of 10:20 to 11:20 a.m., on Wednesday, Nov. 19th in the Mary McLeod Bethune Performing Arts Center.
In addition, during a series of afternoon workshops, students will be given an opportunity to interact with several BCC/BCU alumni who have gone on to distinguish themselves as attorneys. Two panel discussions are scheduled from 1p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Attorneys who are scheduled to participate include the Honorable James Pierce, Pinellas County Judge, Gloria Carr, Joan Anthony, Steve Robinson, Christy Collins, Dedrick Straghn, Kelvin Daniels, and Earnest DeLoach. Each of the panelists will share the story of their journey, while encouraging students to pursue their dreams. The afternoon workshops will be held in the Civic Engagement Center’s Graduate Seminar Room.
The Center for Law and Social Justice is the brainchild of President Edison O. Jackson and is designed to bring forth contemporary social issues to the attention of our students and community alike, while also developing programs that will enhance the likelihood of students who desire to pursue careers in the legal field. Retired Judge Hubert Grimes is the Director of the Center.
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About Bethune Cookman University:
Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement. B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000. For more information, visit www.cookman.edu.