Law School Commemorates 45th Anniversary of the First African-American Law Graduates

April 1, 2017

Professor Bryan Fair and Civil Rights Attorney Fred Gray had “A Conversation about Jim Crow Policy” on March 31 at the symposium on Bending the Arc of History: African-Americans and The University of Alabama School of Law.

Gray said his mother gave him three goals as a child: Keep Christ first in his life, stay in school and stay out of trouble. After he was accepted at Case Western Reserve School of Law, Gray said he decided he was going “to destroy everything segregated I could find.”

“If I have been able to do anything, it was those motivating factors,” he said.

Gray’s talk was part of a symposium that commemorated the 45th Anniversary of the Law School’s first African-American graduates. Almost a decade after the infamous “stand in the schoolhouse door,” Michael Figures, Booker Forte, Jr., and Ronald E. Jackson made history in 1972 by becoming the first African-American students to graduate from The University of Alabama School of Law.

Dean Mark E. Brandon welcomed alumni, judges and professors to the conference that explored complex questions about diversity at the Law School and highlighted advancements that have been made.

“We honor today a group of persons who entered an indifferent and sometimes hostile place, who stayed, succeeded and made a mark on the university, state and nation,” he said.

Lawyers who had been denied admission recounted what it was like to attend other law schools, and the Law School’s first African-American law students shared their experiences at noon as part of the Trailblazers Luncheon. Alumni who followed in their footsteps provided potential solutions to the challenges and obstacles that remain.