- Portrait of Virgil Darnell Hawkins
- Virgil Hawkins graduated from Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1930, and returned to Daytona to become a teacher and principal. He later became public relations director for Bethune-Cookman College.
- In April 1949 Hawkins and five other African-Americans applied for admission to professional schools at the University of Florida in Gainesville. They were denied on the basis of race, and the NAACP filed a lawsuit. Bethune-Cookman was told that loans to the institution would not be renewed unless Hawkins was fired. Stores and banks where Hawkins had credit claimed his loans were due in full. Police drove through the black community at night asking residents if they were Hawkins. Relatives were arrested. At length, Hawkins and his wife pretended to separate in order to keep the family safe.
- In 1950 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Sweatt v. Painter case. Legally the State of Florida had to admit Hawkins; however, the Florida Supreme Court upheld a state plan to establish the same type of separate (black) graduate schools that the "Sweatt" decision had ruled against. Two years after that decision, and two weeks after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Florida. The state Supreme Court chose defiance, agreeing that Negro admissions to UF could not be barred, but contending that the federal court had not stated when the first admission would have to occur.
- By 1956, Hawkins was 50 and the only litigant of the original six still fighting. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a second mandate to Florida. This time the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion claiming the right of a sovereign state to protect its citizens and would not permit Hawkins admission unless he could prove that it could be accomplished "without great public mischief."
- In June 1958, nine years after filing his application, Hawkins sacrificed his own ambition by withdrawing his application for an agreement that other African Americans would at last be permitted to enroll at the UF Law School. Hawkins earned a law degree elsewhere, but his civil rights activities cost him his license. This was finally reinstated in December, 1988 -- six months after his death.
- Hawkins received an honorary degree posthumously from the University of Florida in June 2001.
- 1 photoprint - b&w - 7 x 5 in.
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