FAMU Law honors legal pioneer

Most law schools don't have quite the history as Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law. 

It was established in 1949 because there were no state-supported schools for blacks back then. The only problem? In 1965, the state legislature concluded that its run was over. It was closed to make way for a law school at Florida State University. It took the money slated for FAMU and diverted it to Florida State, which was mostly white. 

American history ... it can make you wince sometimes. 

One of the key players in the school's re-opening decades later was Bishop Holifield, who served as the university's general counsel. Under the direction of former FAMU President Frederick Humphries, Holifield led the charge for the school's reestablishment.

Just recently, his portrait was unveiled at the law school to honor his efforts. 

"The legal struggle took 15 years and we never gave up,”  Holifield said. “We were persistent. We were triumphant. FAMU Law in Tallahassee was snatched away from us and it was eventually returned, resulting in this beautiful facility we have here in Orlando.”

Humphries says he knew the fight to reestablish FAMU Law was in good hands with Holifield, a Harvard Law School graduate who co-founded the Black Law School Students Association while there. 

“This law school will make a major difference and has made a major difference in the lives of the students who are educated here," Humphries said. "These students are our future. They will fight for justice just as attorney Holifield did.”

The portrait dedication is just a small way to say thank you to a person who made a significant contribution to society, the school said. The portrait will serve as a permanent reminder of the sacrifices required to reestablish the law school for visitors to the FAMU College of Law campus. The portrait now hangs in the atrium of FAMU Law.

“We are honored to recognize a true pioneer in the legal industry and in higher education-attorney Bishop Holifield,” said FAMU Law Interim Dean Nicky Boothe Perry.

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