W. George Allen: Black lawyer who paved the way for today's generation
caines | 8/16/2012, 5:30 a.m.
Graduate from Univ. of Florida prepares for retirementFew people get to be in a room with a living legend and thats just what happened when the highly-respected attorney Willie George Allen,76, sat down to talk about his life with this reporter. How do you wanna do this?, said Allen, who has been practicing law for almost 50 years. After 49 years, Im ready to do anything I want whenever I want to. Allen was referring to his approaching retirement day. He graduated from the University of Floridas law school [Levin Law] on December 22, 1962. Hell hang up his shield on the last day of December of this year. Allens story is truly inspiring. He was the first Black student to graduate from the University of Florida Levin Law school. Other Blacks had been admitted before him but he was the first to earn his degree.
Allen quickly became comfortable with the uncertainties of life. As the first Black to graduate from the University of Florida, he says he learned how to confront the unseen. In the process he has created a legal legacy that few have been able to match. I was the only Black in the whole university, Allen said. It was daunting and there was a lot of fear. I didnt know who to trust. I was truly in uncharted waters. He add that loneliness and racism were two things he faced constantly. It was a different experience from FAMU where he earned his undergraduate degree. I would get phone calls from people threatening my life saying things like Nigger, we are going to kill you, if you dont leave, he said. But I wasnt going to let them turn me around. Failure was not an option. Allen remembers not even being allowed to live on campus. I had to find a house in the Black community, he said. . Upon graduation, Allen immediately went to work. However, after being dissatisfied with the salary of his first two jobs, he decided to open his own practice in Ft. Lauderdale in 1963. I was anxious, he said. It was the unknown that made me anxious. I did not know if I was going to be accepted or if I would get enough clients to earn a living, Allen said. But he did. I enjoy the give and take, the strategizing and I enjoy winning, he said. Over the years, Allen has handled all kinds of cases. Whatever walked in the door was what I handled, he said.
The case that defined Allen as a lawyer was the Broward County School Board lawsuit, which ruled that Ely High School would be desegregated, according to Allens autobiography Where the Bus Stops. His autobiography serves as an in-depth account of the attorneys many achievements despite overwhelming odds. Now, as he makes his exit from the top of the legal profession, he leaves this advice to anyone who is aspiring to be a lawyer; Study hard, be open-minded, get a liberal education and read stay abreast of the current trends. By Julia Samuelsjsamuels@miamitimesonline.com