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Black Law Students Association honors Florida Supreme Court Justice James E.C. Perry


Story by Valeria Obi

On Feb. 25, the Black Law Students Association at Stetson held a gala in honor of Black History Month that featured Florida Supreme Court Justice James E.C. Perry as the keynote speaker.

More than 80 students, attorneys and judges attended the gala. >>View more photos here.

BLSA honored Florida Supreme Court Justice James E.C. Perry at a gala at Stetson Law on Feb. 25.

BLSA honored Florida Supreme Court Justice James E.C. Perry at a gala at Stetson Law on Feb. 25. Photo by Meagan Randle.

Justice Perry, who served in the U.S. Army before obtaining his law degree from Columbia Law School in 1972, spoke about the progression of African Americans in the legal profession.

“My goal in going to law school was to kick doors down,” Justice Perry told the Stetson Law students gathered to hear him speak. “There were moments when I didn’t want to move forward, but I would stop to think about others besides myself. I thought, it’s not about me, it’s about future generations.”

After running a successful legal practice, Justice Perry became the first African American to be appointed to the 18th Judicial Circuit in 2000. He was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in March 2009.

“Having a Florida Supreme Court justice come speak to a student organization was a very humbling experience,” said Howard Williams, student president of BLSA. “To hear Justice Perry’s story and the sacrifices he made for others was extremely inspiring.”

Professors Dorothea Beane and Darryl Wilson, both BLSA faculty advisors, were honored at gala for their contributions to BLSA as well as for being the first African American professors at Stetson Law.

Justice James E.C. Perry and Professor Dorothea Beane at the gala.

Justice James E.C. Perry and Professor Dorothea Beane at the gala. Photo courtesy Professor Beane.

“Professors Beane and Wilson are the reason for the growth and success of BLSA as an organization,” said Williams. “We can always count on them for guidance and support.”

BLSA co-sponsored the event with the George Edgecomb Bar Association, Fred G. Minnis, Sr., Bar Association and the law firm of Phelps Dunbar.

The gala also featured a historic visual exhibit entitled “Legacy of Courage, Vision & Hope,” celebrating the accomplishments of pioneering African American lawyers in the region. The exhibit was created by the Diversity Committee of the St. Petersburg Bar Association and has been on display in the Great Hall at Stetson for the entire month of February for students, staff and faculty to view.

“I felt as though the exhibit was a very important aspect of the gala,” said second-year student Elizabeth Ufot. “I think it’s important to not only recognize but also to celebrate the contributions of African Americans in Pinellas County since we attend school here.”

BLSA plans to make the gala an annual event during Black History Month with the hopes of continuing to honor the pioneers that paved the way.