LAWRENCE — Thurgood Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court justice, and this year’s Thurgood Marshall Law Day at the University of Kansas School of Law will feature another legal trailblazer – the first African American woman to serve as an appellate judge in Missouri.
The annual event, scheduled for Friday, Feb. 22, will feature Judge Lisa White Hardwick as the keynote speaker. Hardwick has served on the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District since 2001. She recently completed a two-year term as chief judge and has authored more than 600 opinions while on the court. Hardwick received her law degree from Harvard and will speak about the importance of using a legal education to fight injustice wherever it is found.
“The battlefield for civil rights has expanded far beyond the struggle for racial and gender equality,” she said. “Lawyers should be equipped to deal with disparities in health, wealth, education, and social justice for all Americans.”
Thurgood Marshall Law Day, sponsored by the Black Law Students Association, brings diverse high school students to the KU School of Law to gain exposure to the legal system, law school and the legal profession, and to learn about Thurgood Marshall’s legacy. Hardwick is no stranger to mentoring young people, having made presentations at more than 35 schools during her tenure. She also offers a shadowing program that allows students to spend time with her in the courtroom.
“I believe it is helpful for students to see that women and people of color have tremendous opportunities to make a difference in the legal profession,” she said.
KU Law Professor Quinton Lucas will also address the students about the rights they have in school and the opportunities that they will have when they attend college. A discussion with members of the Black Law Students Association and the KU Law Student Ambassadors and an optional tour of the law school will round out the event.
“Really what I want to do is show them a world of possibilities on KU’s campus – possibilities that start when they come out to college,” Lucas said.
Born in 1908, Thurgood Marshall graduated magna cum laude from Howard University Law School after first being denied admission to the University of Maryland School of Law because of its segregation policies. Marshall went on to successfully argue in Brown v. Board of Education and served as chief counsel of the NAACP. In 1961, he reached a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit before eventually gaining an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he spent 24 years.
The Black Law Students Association is an active participant in the law school community, coordinating many outreach events throughout the year. Its Thanksgiving Food Drive annually feeds hundreds of local families through food and monetary donations that BLSA members solicit from students, faculty and staff. In the spring, BLSA either hosts or supports the annual Diversity in Law Banquet, and the organization also spearheads fundraising activities for professional development and community outreach.
The University of Kansas School of Law has admitted women and students of color since its inception in 1878.