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Black Law Students Association Banquet Honors Lloyd Gaines

February 11th, 2016


For 30 years, the University of Missouri Black Law Students Association (BLSA) has commemorated the life of Lloyd L. Gaines and raised funding for scholarships for two deserving law students with an annual scholarship banquet.

Gaines applied for admission to the School of Law in 1936. He was well-qualified, but was denied admission solely for the expressed reason of his race. With legal assistance from the NAACP, Gaines filed a lawsuit, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court declared that Gaines must be admitted to the law school unless the state created a school of equal standing for African American students.

Missouri established a law school for African Americans at Lincoln University, and African Americans were not admitted to the School of Law until the 1950s. Gaines disappeared without a trace in Chicago in 1939. Mizzou Law BLSA dedicates its annual event and scholarship to him and his emblematic struggle.

This year, BLSA selected Ronald A. Norwood, ’86, as the banquet’s keynote speaker. Norwood shared his story of growing up in Chicago and attending the University of Illinois as an undergraduate. In his address, he honored his friend Maurice D. Early, ‘84, for encouraging him to attend Mizzou Law, and thanked Assistant Dean Emeritus Robert G. Bailey, ’79, whom he characterized as being part of a cultural change at Mizzou Law of faculty and administration genuinely concerned with the success of students from underrepresented backgrounds.

In perhaps the most memorable moment of his keynote, Norwood recounted how he and Michael A. Middleton, ’71, were together on a retreat in Cuba this summer. Over Cuban cigars, the two discussed how Middleton was preparing his golf game for his retirement. Of course, Norwood said, that was before Middleton accepted a position serving the University of Missouri System as interim president.

First-year student Habib Hasan, the master of ceremonies for the evening, said, “Mr. Norwood exemplifies much of what Lloyd Gaines’ legacy means to this university and the law school in particular, especially within the context of recent undercurrents and changes here at Mizzou. Mr. Norwood’s background is not unlike that of many of the students who have studied here at Hulston, and it was incredibly inspiring to learn about his journey and success following his time at Mizzou Law.”

Later in the evening, BLSA honored its scholarship recipients for the year: 2L Victoria Willingham and 3Ls Christopher Shade and Kayla Jackson-Williams, as well as Emily Ottenson of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office as Lloyd L. Gaines Banquet Honoree for her work as the volunteer coach of the law school’s Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Team.


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