Members of the Law School community gathered for the second annual Judge James B. Parsons Legacy Dinner, a student-organized celebration of the integration of the federal judiciary. Judge Parsons graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1949, and on August 30, 1961, he became the first African American to serve as a United States federal judge in the continental United States.
The dinner, hosted by the Law School's chapter of the Black Law Students Association, is an opportunity to honor a distinguished African-American federal jurist. This year, BLSA chose Judge Bernice Donald of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to celebrate her trailblazing as one of the first African-American female federal judges to serve in Tennessee, as well as her commitment to public service through her work for the American Bar Association and the American Bar Foundation.This year, BLSA honored Judge Bernice Donald of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, who was one of the first African-American female federal judges to serve in Tennessee. They also celebrated Donald's commitment to public service through her work for the American Bar Association and the American Bar Foundation.
A group of BLSA students, led by Andre Washington, '19, (right, talking to Whitney Nebolisa, an associate at Sidley Austin, which helped sponsor the event), started the Parsons Dinner tradition a year ago because they wanted to highlight the legacy of judicial giants like Parsons.
This year's dinner began with a cocktail hour in the Law School's classroom wing. From left: Morgan Arthur, '20; Marina Mehrtens, '21; Angelica Russell-Johnson, '21; and Savannah West, '20.
From left: Jackson Wimberly, '20; Beth McNab, '20; Joby Celoza, '20; Lee Stark, '20; Arielle Yoon, '20; and Dean of Students Charles Todd.
The dinner was held in the Green Lounge. Professor Alison Siegler, the Director of the Law School's Federal Criminal Justice Clinic, chatted with Deanna Hall, '20.
Subria Whitaker, '20, caught up with a classmate.
Dean Thomas J. Miles welcomed guests to the event.
Kamara Nwosu, '20, the BLSA vice president who organized this year's event, spoke about BLSA's theme for Black History Month: "Because of them, we can," highlighting its importance to the Parsons' celebration.
Washington presented Donald with her award.
Donald then addressed the crowd, focusing on the importance of service and choosing one's own path. Donald urged students to ask themselves, "What will you do?" as a way of challenging them to find their strengths and make an impact in their communities.
Donald spent time chatting with last year's honoree, Judge Ann. C. Williams (retired), who was honored for her remarkable career on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Professor Herschella Conyers, '83, director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Project, and Professor from Practice Sharon Fairley, '06.
Donald greeted BLSA members Deanna Hall, '20, and Kimberly Waters, 19.
From left: Morgan Arthur, '20, Dean of Admissions Ann Perry, and Savannah West, '20.
Divine Collins, '21, introduced Judge Parsons' great granddaughter, Grace Parsons, age 9. Collins is a BLSA 1L representative and a member of the planning committee.
Last year's planning committee with Judge Donald. From left: Kimberly Waters, Ngozi Osuji, Daniel Abebe (a professor and the deputy provost), Donald, Andre Washington, and Laurel Hattix.
BLSA President Amiri Lampley, '20, offered closing remarks.
Donald with Juan Thomas, a former president of the National Bar Association.
A number of BLSA 1Ls attended the event.
The central planning committee, from left: Kamara Nwosu, Andre Washington, Amiri Lampley, Robin Graham, and Charles Todd.
"This event was an opportunity to have a lot of Black faces on our campus," said Kamara Nwosu, the BLSA vice president who organized the event. "BLSA is honored to present this award to a trailblazing judge, Bernice Donald, and highlight the successes that are achieved by Black members of our community."