‘Black in Law’ Trailblazers Celebration

Mississippi Freedom Trail Marker at Tougaloo Photos By Chris Young

By Christopher Young,

Contributing Writer,

Woodworth Chapel at Historic Tougaloo College

A special celebration of Black in Law Trailblazers, presented by Tougaloo College Reuben V. Anderson Institute for Social Justice in conjunction with The Reuben V. Anderson Pre-Law Society, was held on the hallowed ground of Woodworth Chapel on the campus of the historic Tougaloo College on March 8, 2023 at 6 p.m..

Current Reuben V. Anderson Pre-Law Society scholars, alumni and administrators’ presentation not only showcased a reverence for the five honorees but also revealed an academic society functioning at an exceptionally high level, enjoying partnerships with major institutions, and annually graduating scholars who go on to study at American, Tufts, Brown and Harvard, to name a few. 

The evening opened with remarks by the co-founder and director of the Reuben V. Anderson Institute for Social Justice and the Pre-Law program, attorney Julian D. Miller, followed by greetings from Pre-Law Society member Nayla McClure, a prayer by Pre-Law Society Chaplain Sharon Jimerson, remarks by Pre-Law Scholar Walter Townsend, and an inspirational rendition of Irving Berlin and Roger Emerson’s “Blues Skies”– made most famous by the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald – sung by Naleah Moore. Video introductions by each presenter preceded more formal introductions, before each individual honoree was called to the dais for a plaque presentation and photographs. 

L-R: Montae’l Williams, Justice Reuben V. Anderson, Attorney Julian Miller

Pre-Law Society President Montae’l Williams presented the first honoree, Justice Reuben V. Anderson as a walking Tougaloo legend and evoked the words of Maya Angelou, “when you get…give, when you learn…teach, when you aspire…achieve, and when you dream…believe,” indicating that Anderson is the personification of her words. He thanked Justice Anderson “for all he has given to us, and for his life story and all it continues to teach us, and for providing us with an example of black excellence and what it allows all of us to aspire to be, and for inculcating within us a dream and investing in that dream.”

Pre-Law Scholar Malcolm Walker presented Judge Tomie T. Green, reminding the audience that she has served in all three branches of government – as an assistant attorney general in Hinds and Yazoo counties, two terms in the Mississippi House of Representatives, she was the first woman elected as a circuit court judge in Hinds County. Her list of awards, memberships and accomplishments is exhaustive, and Walker did well in citing a dozen or so before encouraging the audience to “join me in recognizing the trailblazing heroine – Judge Tomie T. Green.”

L-R: Malcolm Walker, Judge Tomie Green, Atty. Julian Miller

Pre-Law Scholar Carmen Washington presented Attorney Issac Bryd, Sr. after Attorney Miller commented that Byrd “is probably the most diligent and most prodigious and most decorated plaintiff attorney in the country. We are so honored to have him here.” Washington then shared that what she has learned is that Byrd “is most proud that he has never represented a corporation in any case against a human being seeking justice in a Mississippi court of law.” She went on to intone two Frederick Douglas quotes when referring to Byrd – “agitate, agitate, agitate…and freedom is a constant struggle.” He founded Byrd & Associates in Jackson in 1987. 

Director Miller went on to discuss the transformative things going on at this college. He announced the formation of a Public Policy Program – a first in the 154-year history of the college – that has already formed partnerships with the Harvard-Kennedy School of government, and a $6 million National Institutes of Health Grant, and partnership with Brown University. He highlighted the transformational leader of the initiative, Dr. Lauren Long – 33 new Public Policy students and 60 Pre-Law students we have now which represents a 600% enrollment growth over the past four years.”

Dr. Wanda McGowan, chair of the Political Science Department was lauded by Attorney Miller before making remarks which included “that I am grateful to God to be able to have the honor and privilege to be able to be here at Tougaloo at this time…to work with an amazing faculty, our trailblazers being honored tonight, and the most magnificent group of students I have ever seen…and let us all continue to work for that which is good and right and just – in this country, in this state, and at this college.”

This truly memorable evening concluded with a reception.

L-R: Carmen Washington, Atty. Miller, Atty Issac Byrd, Sr.


L-R: Jada Pittman, Dean Patricia Bennett, Atty. Miller


L-R: Kyla Thurston, Judge Denise Owens, Atty. Miller

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