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Orlando, Fla. – Three Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law alumni were among 165 attorneys honored by The Florida Bar for 50 years of dedication to the practice of law. Attorney John Due, Jr. ('63), U.S. Representative Alcee L. Hastings ('63), and the Honorable Edward Rodgers ('63), graduated from the original FAMU College of Law in Tallahassee, and were recognized during the Florida Bar's Annual Convention, June 26-29, 2013, at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
The FAMU College of Law was originally established on December 21, 1949 as a division of law at the then Florida A&M College, and the first class was admitted in 1951. In 1966, the Florida Board of Control (later known as the Board of Regents) withdrew its permission for the institution to admit law students, and two years later the law school graduated its last class and closed its doors. Between 1954 and 1968, the law school graduated 57 students. Attorney Due, Representative Hastings and Judge Rodgers were among the men and women who have gone on to make significant contributions to the legal profession both within the state and throughout the nation.
Attorney John Due, Jr. has been a civil rights advocate for more than 50 years, beginning as a member of the Terre Haute, Indiana Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) at the age of 14. He volunteered for the Army draft, while a student at Indiana University, in order to finish his degree with the aid of the GI Bill, and was stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina in 1954. Inspired by Rosa Park's famous act that ignited the Montgomery bus boycott, he returned to Indiana University and joined the college chapter of the NAACP and implemented a test campaign of segregated off-campus housing, restaurants and barbershops. He continued his activism after completing his Indiana University degree, and enrolled in the school's night law center in Indianapolis. He eventually enrolled at FAMU's law school, where he would meet his future wife, (the late) Patricia Stephens (Due), a leader of the student movement in Tallahassee, which he later joined. During his time in law school, Attorney Due was a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Freedom Ride tester of Greyhound facilities from Tallahassee to Dothan, Alabama, testing the President's Executive Order prohibiting discrimination in public interstate transportation facilities. He graduated FAMU Law in 1963, and worked with the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta in 1964. Attorney Due is a 50-year member of the Florida Bar who currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia.
Representative Hastings' congressional bio reads: Alcee L. Hastings represents his native state of Florida by serving as Congressman for District 20, which includes parts of Broward, Palm Beach, and Hendry Counties. Congressman Hastings was first elected in 1992 and is currently serving his 11th term in the Congress. Born in Altamonte Springs, he attended Florida's public schools, and graduated from Fisk University in 1958. He earned his law degree from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. Known to many as "Judge," Alcee Hastings has distinguished himself as an attorney, civil rights activist, judge, and now Member of Congress. Appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, he became the first African-American Federal Judge in the State of Florida, and served in that position for 10 years. Since his election to Congress as the first African-American from Florida since the post-Civil War period, Congressman Hastings has been an outspoken advocate for Floridians and our nation as a whole. Throughout his lifetime, Congressman Hastings has championed the rights of minorities, women, the elderly, children, and immigrants.
Palm Beach County History Online offers the following bio on Judge Edward Rodgers: After serving in the Navy Hospital Corps during World War II, Edward Rodgers attended Howard University on the GI Bill. There he was able to observe civil rights activists such as Thurgood Marshall, and met and married Gwendolyn Baker of West Palm Beach. They settled here in 1950. As a teacher at Roosevelt High School, Rodgers protested unequal pay for black teachers, which led him to enroll in law school to do more for equal rights. He was accepted by University of Miami until they learned he was black, and instead he headed for Florida A&M in Tallahassee. At FAMU Rodgers started achieving "firsts" as first in his class of six (including future federal judge and Congressman Alcee Hastings). He practiced briefly with F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. before starting his own practice on Rosemary Avenue as the fifth black lawyer in the county. In 1964 State Attorney Marvin Mounts appointed Rodgers the first African American county prosecutor. Then he quickly moved to the county's first black assistant state attorney and first African American judge, then Florida's first black circuit court judge, where he was chief judge for a time. Between appointments, from his private practice, Rodgers forced desegregation by suing the Children's Home of Juvenile Court and the West Palm Beach Police Department. Since retiring from the law in 1995, Judge Rodgers has received other awards and served on special commissions. In Riviera Beach, where he lives and served as city councilman and mayor, the Post Office was renamed for Edward Rodgers in 2004.