George Starke (Entered 1958, LLD ‘19)
Four years after segregation was declared unconstitutional in Brown vs. Board of Education, Mr. George H. Starke, Jr. enrolled in the University of Florida in September 1958 as the first African American student admitted to the 105-year-old institution. Mr. Starke was 27 years old at the time and pursuing his dream of a law degree. Ultimately, the physical and emotional pressures of being the only African-American student at UF took their toll, and Mr. Starke withdrew after just three semesters to take a job on Wall Street. In May of 2019, Mr. Starke was honored by the University of Florida for his sacrifice and contribution with the Doctorate of Laws degree.
W. George Allen (J.D. ‘62)
W. George Allen, the first African American graduate from the UF Levin College of Law, made a selfless choice by attending UF. He had been accepted to Harvard University and the University of California-Berkeley but chose to study law in the South to open doors for other students and to be nearer to the heart of the Civil Rights movement. A graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Allen served as a special agent in the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps before attending UF. After graduating from UF Law, Allen moved to Fort Lauderdale, where he established a legal practice and helped to integrate public schools, housing, and parks in Broward County. In 1988, he became president of the Broward County Bar Association — the first African American president of a major bar association in Florida. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus of UF in 2000 and awarded the National Conference for Community and Justice Silver Medallion Award in 2001. A member of the National Bar Association Hall of Fame, Allen served on Florida A&M University’s Board of Trustees from 2005-2007.
W. George Allen passed away on November 7, 2019. We honor his life and appreciate his sacrifice and legacy. In 2012, Mr. Allen was interviewed by Marna Weston with the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program.
Hazel M. Land (J.D. ‘73)
Hazel Land made her impact on UF Law when she became the first Black woman to graduate from the institution. She began law school in 1970, the semester after Judge Mickle graduated, but before he returned to teach. Mrs. Land is from Brooksville, Florida. She was raised during the period of Jim Crow segregation. Her upbringing influenced her career and her leadership. After graduating high school, she followed her sister to attend Tuskegee University, a historically Black university in Alabama. After graduating, she went on to become a teacher, educating students in Alabama, New Jersey, and Florida. In 1960, President Kennedy launched the Peace Corps, and Hazel became a member. She served in the Philippines and Nigeria. Upon returning to the United States, her life of service continued as she became a pioneer with the NAACP. She established a chapter in her hometown, Brooksville, and worked with NAACP leadership in Tampa. She grew with the organization to eventually become the State Director in Tennessee and the State Secretary in Florida. This work wasn’t enough, and one day she decided she wanted to further serve her community by learning the law and teaching the Black community their rights. It was then that she applied to law school and chose to change UF Law’s history. Hazel Land graduated from UF Law in 1973. She is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated.
Judge Stephan Mickle (J.D. 1970)
Stephan P. Mickle is a Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. Judge Mickle was the first African American student to graduate from the University of Florida, and the second African American student to graduate from UF Law. In this interview, Judge Mickle speaks candidly about his experiences integrating the University and the support of family and friends. Judge Mickle also reflects on all of his life experiences and historical changes over the time of his distinguished career. Lastly, Judge Mickle emphasized that career options are limitless with a law degree.
Jeanelle Bronson (J.D.’78)
Jeanelle Bronson was accepted to Levin College of Law alongside her husband in the class of 1978. Currently, she serves as a partner with Grower, Ketcham, Rutherford, Bronson, Eide & Telan, P.A. In this interview, Mrs. Bronson discussed her early childhood education and her trajectory as a career attorney. She attended legally segregated elementary, middle high and high schools (and spent her final high school years at integrated Edgewater High School in Orange County). At UF Law, Mrs. Bronson won the book award for Evidence, Criminal Law, and Legal Writing in her first year. After graduation, Mrs. Bronson completed a two-year clerkship with Honorable John A. Reed, United States District Court, Middle District of Florida. Later, she became the first Black woman to make partner in a large legal firm in Orange County.
Allison Bethel (J.D. ‘84)
Allison Bethel manages the legal clinic at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago focused on housing discrimination and civil litigation. In the interview, Ms. Bethel discussed highlights of UF Law in the 1980s and how the College helped her create her ideology as an attorney. As a passionate advocate, Mrs. Bethel expressed that at the time of her graduation, African American students were often typecast into certain types of legal trajectories and careers. She was determined to chart her own path. For present and future African American African American attorneys, Mrs. Bethel relayed the impetus to explore, to prosper and follow one’s passion of advocacy.