W. George Allen

W. George Allen, the first African-American graduate of the UF College of Law, speaks to the Black Law Students Association and the Josiah T. Walls Bar Association on Friday.

The first African-American student to graduate from the UF Levin College of Law returned to his alma mater Friday evening to speak to the Black Law Students Association and the Josiah T. Walls Bar Association.

W. George Allen reflected on his work with other students to integrate UF and his civil rights efforts throughout his career in the law school.

He offered career advice based on obstacles he faced during his 50 years practicing law and laughed at his persistence for equality, like when he studied in the bathroom to make a white UF janitor wait because he refused to use the facility at the same time.

Brian Lawrence, president of the UF Black Law Students Association, said he appreciated Allen’s anecdotes and stories. The second-year UF law student said the organization invited Allen to speak because they wanted to hear about his time at UF.

“We just said it would be a shame if we graduated without hearing the person that our BLSA chapter is named after speak,” Lawrence, 24, said.

Incoming BLSA President Candace Spencer, a first-year UF law student, said it’s important for students to remember Allen’s contributions.

“We have to remember that there is a legacy,” the 23-year-old said. “We have to know what he stood for. We should examine the issues of today.”

When he finished speaking, Allen congratulated the chapter on winning Regional Chapter of the Year two years in a row. Lawrence presented Allen with the Trailblazer Award to honor him for paving the way for black law students today.

Allen said he enjoyed practicing law and making a difference for future lawyers, but after 50 years, he is content with retirement.

“I am 79 years old now,” he said, “and I don’t want to work in anything except trying to catch fish.” 

[A version of this story ran on page 6 on 3/30/2015 under the headline “Florida civil rights leader, UF Law alumnus speaks on career”]