Florida A&M honored the original law graduates at the Inaugural Distinguished Alumni Banquet Thursday evening.
Members from the graduating classes of 1954 through 1968 were reunited at the banquet.
President of the FAMU National Alumni Association Tommy Mitchell said honoring FAMU graduates and distinguished individuals shows what the university is all about.
“Activities that accentuates graduates, like these individuals, really make the spirit of FAMU real,” Mitchell said. “FAMU is a building and some land and it is how the teachers perform and how they developed these kinds of people that make the FAMU story real.
According to famu.edu, the Florida Legislature voted to close FAMU’s College of Law in 1968. The funds that were allocated to FAMU’s law school were transferred to Florida State University’s new law school. In 2006, the school reopened at its new location in Orlando.
Interim President Larry Robinson said the law school has made some substantial improvements.
“Its really phenomenal when you look at the indicators, such as the law schools by pass rate,” Robinson said. “We’ve seen a continuous trend of improvement. I’m really proud of that. It really shows we are moving in the right direction.”
Thirteen of the surviving graduates shared some of their experiences and were also recognized for their awards and accomplishments.
Elbert Hatchett, a 1966 law graduate, said the law school was small, but the professors made sure students understood the material.
“The great thing about the law school when I was here was its small size,” Hatchett said. “The information was spoon-fed to us. There was a small faculty and a small student body.
If you had difficulty comprehending a particular subject, they would stay with you until you got it. These law professors were dedicated as they could be. They were the victims of racial discrimination like you’ve never seen before. They weren’t allowed to practice law. They weren’t allowed to pass the bar.”
Hatchett added that he is happy to have been a part of a rich tradition.
“We are very proud of having started a tradition that is rich now with successful law students who are going into the community and practicing law and rendering great services to the community,” said Hatchett, who has been practicing law for 47 years and has a law firm in Pontiac, Michigan.
Abyon McInnis, a senior elementary education student from Jacksonville, said these events show alumni in a positive light.
“These kind of events really make alumni feel special,” McInnis said. “We grow because we acknowledge the past, and we use their knowledge and wisdom to guide us to a better future.”