Plaque Honors 57 Original AMU Law School Graduates | Education

From left are Florida A&M University Trustee Otis Cliatt II, Dean Deidre Keller, former State Senator Artthenia Joyner, FAMU President Larry Robinson, civil rights attorney John Due and Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Maurice Edington.

Florida A&M University (FAMU) unveiled a plaque engraved with the names of the nearly five dozen original law school graduates. The unveiling took place Friday, Sept. 9, at the north end of the Coleman Library Building on the Tallahassee campus, home of the original law school, which operated from 1951 to 1968.

“FAMU’s original 57 graduates set extraordinary examples for generations to come and for anyone motivated by service, including today’s Rattlers for Justice,” said President Larry Robinson, Ph.D.

“This plaque commemorates them and will inspire current students to similar acts of selfless courage. This is what happens, and can happen, when we strike in unity.

Among those present at the ceremony were two of the original graduates, former State Senator Arthenia Joyner and civil rights attorney John Dorsey Due, Jr. Several family members of the original graduates also attended the elected officials of the city ​​of Tallahassee and Leon County.

‘Rattlers for Justice’

“The 57 people who enrolled in FAMU’s first law school will now have their names permanently marked outside the building where their careers began,” said Deidré Keller, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the FAMU.

“These 57 alumni were Rattlers for Justice decades ago. We are grateful for our original alumni, their accomplishments, and the legacy of transformative service they established, which we strive to continue.

The original law school graduates include former judges, the late U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings, a former Florida secretary of state, a former state senator, and other government officials.

FAMU College of Law has a unique history. It is the only one of the six currently existing HBCU law schools that has been opened, closed, and reopened.

Originally established on December 21, 1949, Florida A&M College’s Law Division admitted its first class in 1951. The Legislature established the school because no state-supported “separate but equal” law school existed for African Americans at the time.

Enrollment at the school was limited to black male students at the time and was located in Tallahassee.

However, FAMU’s law school was closed by vote of the Florida Legislature in 1965, with funds transferred to a new law school at the former all-white Florida State University. In 1966, the institution lost the right to admit students after a ruling by the Florida Board of Control, and two years later, in 1968, the last students graduated. A total of 57 students graduated from the school between 1954 and 1968.

An engraved legacy

The 2000 Florida Legislature unanimously passed legislation creating a law school at Florida A&M University, and on June 14, 2000, Governor Jeb Bush signed the bill into law. In a temporary location, the FAMU College of Law admitted its first class in the fall of 2002.

Members of the reinstated law school’s first class graduated with the degree of Juris Doctor conferred on April 30, 2005 in Tallahassee. In January 2006, the College of Law opened in its state-of-the-art permanent location in Orlando, Florida.

In his remarks, President Robinson went to great lengths to emphasize the historical significance of the law school.

“The legacy of FAMU College of Law is etched in the annals of our state and our country through the accomplishments of the first 57 graduates,” Robinson said. “History also records that the University of Florida graduated only two black law students 12 years after desegregation in 1958. Until the 1980s, neither UF nor Florida State University graduated 57 black law students.

Jon J. Epps