College celebrates diversity at annual scholarship gala

The College of Law honored several students and two alumni Thursday while virtually hosting the annual Julian Blackshear, Jr. Scholarship Gala.

The event, coordinated by the Marilyn Yarbrough Chapter of the Black Law Student Association, is designed to celebrate diversity and honor Blackshear as one of the College of Law’s first African-American graduates.

The annual gala also raises funds to support African-American law students with financial assistance by growing the Julian Blackshear, Jr. Scholarship Fund.

Alumnus Van Turner (’02), a Shelby County Commissioner and attorney who was instrumental in removing Confederate statues from city parks in Memphis, Tennessee, was the featured speaker.

He told attendees now is the time to draw on the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. and learn from his legacy.

“If one has ever wondered whether the tools and strategies of the civil rights movement are still effective today, I look no farther than the removal of the confederate monuments and Health Sciences and Memphis parks,” he said. “Just this past Dec. 20, we celebrated three years since the removal of those monuments.”

At the event, the following awards were presented:

  • Alumna Cheri Beasley (’91), who became the first African-American woman to serve as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, received the RBJ Campbelle Award for her extraordinary efforts in advancing the cause of equality and justice.  
  • Third-year student Johnelle Simpson received the Roy BJ Campbelle Leadership Award for his leadership, social consciousness, dedication and passion for the work of the Black Law Student Association. 
  • Third-year student Miles McDowell received the Julian Blackshear Outstanding Student Award for being a student of distinction through his leadership and outstanding character.
  • Third-year student Ri’charda Baldwin was awarded the Frank Ennix Award for Excellence in honor of her exemplary character, strong work ethic, passion for the legal field and desire to help others.

Students Nicole Williams, Abena Tawiah, Miles McDowell and Raven Morris were also recognized as recipients of the Julian Blackshear, Jr. Scholarship.

Gifts can still be made to support the scholarship via this link. The event is available for viewing here.