Metropolis honors man who fought to combine U of Fla. legislation college, then gave up his dream so Black individuals might earn grasp’s levels 

A brand new plaque honoring the legacy of Virgil D. Hawkins was mounted on the website of his former legislation workplace in Leesburg, Florida.

The story of Virgil D. Hawkins life is one in every of nice private sacrifice. Hawkins was a “civil rights advocate who fought to finish segregation on the College of Florida School of Regulation,” in line with a brand new plaque in Leesburg, Florida, that honors his life and legacy, mounted final week on the website of his former legislation workplace downtown, The Orlando Sentinel reported.

“At the moment, the household of Virgil Darnell Hawkins says to the attractive lakefront metropolis of Leesburg — our residence and yours — ‘Thanks,’” stated Harriet Livingston, a niece of the now-deceased Hawkins, at Thursday’s plaque dedication service, “for recognizing the workplace house as soon as occupied by the South’s most affected person man and the South’s first civil rights pioneer.”

Harriet Livingston, a niece of Virgil D. Hawkins, speaks at a ceremony final week marking Hawkins’ historic legislation workplace in downtown Leesburg, Florida. (Picture: Paul Ryan/Correspondent/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Hawkins died in 1988 on the age of 81, however his story started in 1949 when he utilized for admission to the College of Florida’s legislation college. He met each qualification — besides being white. As a substitute, Hawkins was provided the chance to attend an out-of-state legislation college on the expense of the Florida Board of Management. As an alternative, he sued.

With the help of lawyer Thurmond Marshall, Hawkins misplaced on the Florida Supreme Court docket, the place a promise was made to determine a legislation college at Florida A&M College. He appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court docket and received “immediate admission” to the College of Florida — however the state ignored the order. 

In reality, Hawkins returned to the Supreme Court docket 4 instances, successful every time. Regardless of the rulings, the state merely ignored them. Lastly, Hawkins withdrew his utility to College of Florida’s legislation college in 1958 in trade for the desegregation of its graduate {and professional} colleges. 

Hawkins finally attended the New England College of Regulation in 1964, the place he paid his manner by doing menial jobs. Nevertheless, when he returned to Florida, he couldn’t take the bar examination as a result of his alma mater was not accredited by the American Bar Affiliation. It was not till 1977 — on the age of 70 — that Hawkins was lastly admitted to observe legislation, courtesy of the Florida Supreme Court docket. 

“While you have a look at all the pieces that occurred to him, most of us would have both ended up very bitter or mentally damaged, unable to do something. However he wasn’t damaged,” Florida lawyer Harley Herman recalled. ”He hoped he might encourage the subsequent era. That was just about his mission on the finish.”

Honoring Hawkins, Metropolis Commissioner John Christian admitted, was “in all probability one thing that was lengthy overdue.”

“To be like he was,” stated Christian, “from the Okahumpka-Leesburg space, our space, and to have performed one thing as monumental as he did — desegregate Florida’s graduate college system — Virgil Hawkins ought to be somebody we discuss like we discuss different civil-rights icons.” 

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The publish Metropolis honors man who fought to combine U of Fla. legislation college, then gave up his dream so Black individuals might earn grasp’s levels  appeared first on TheGrio.

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