Monday, July 15, 2013

A giant of the Mississippi legal world pays homage to one of our civil rights legends

Prof. John Robin Bradley
This summer, Professor John Robin Bradley retired from the faculty of the University of Mississippi School of Law after 47 years of teaching.  As he did, he announced that he'd formed the Medgar Evers Scholarship in the Law with a six-figure gift.

Professor Bradley did so much more in his time at the Law School than teach contracts to bewildered first year students like me.*  From the University of Mississippi's website:
In addition to his respect for Evers, Bradley was inspired to build the scholarship endowment to reflect a longtime dedication to opening doors for African Americans to pursue law degrees. When Bradley joined the School of Law faculty in 1966, then-law dean Joshua Marion Morse III had acquired a grant from the Ford Foundation for minority scholarships and was recruiting and admitting African-American students. 
“We were recruiting high-caliber African-American students and were among the first law schools nationally to do so, aside from the historically black colleges. I had grown up in Mississippi and it was so obvious to me the importance of providing quality education to all people, regardless of race. Lawyers often become leaders among their communities, and I knew it was important that black Mississippians could attend law school. Dean Morse and others had helped put the law school in the vanguard of social change in the state of Mississippi.” 
Bradley helped forge the constitution of the law school and recruited many members of the faculty, including some who have gone on to become a federal judge, president of a state university, dean of a law school and several other distinguished practitioners and faculty, including Mike Hoffheimer, Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association Distinguished Lecturer and UM professor of law, in 1987. 
“There is no one who has been more significant in the history of this law school,” said Hoffheimer. “First, Professor Bradley helped in opening and keeping open the doors of this law school to African-American students and faculty as well as other minorities. He has done this through thick and thin, including times when it was not popular to do so. He has also been at the forefront in insisting that the law school achieve and maintain the highest standards of academic excellence and that too has also been challenged over time for various reasons, and for that we are eternally grateful.”
This year being the 50th anniversary of Medgar Evers' assassination, I find this a very fitting tribute to Evers' legacy.  Evers applied to the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1954, but was rejected because of his race.  When the University desegregated 8 years later in 1962, it was in part because of Evers' hard work with the NAACP.  We are blessed as a society to have his fellow Mississippian, John Bradley, continue Evers' work in desegregating the field of law through his tenure with and now his generosity to the University.

*I was lucky enough to begin my law school career in Professor Bradley's Contracts classroom.  Yes, it is true that he called first on fellow Mississippi College graduates. So did Professor Debbie Bell, another Choctaw, in the next class.  That made for a frightening first day of law school.

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