Here in chronological order are the court cases in Virgil Hawkins's 9-year legal battle to gain admission to the UF law school. His quest was ultimately unsuccessful thanks in part to B.K. Roberts who in 1955 and 1957 wrote key opinions as Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice denying Hawkins admission to UF because he was black, even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled there was no reason for delay.
The court recognized that Virgil Hawkins had a right to attend a public law school in Florida, but said the state had done enough to uphold this right by creating a public law school for blacks at Florida A&M University and since Hawkins could go there, he had no right to admission to the UF law school, opinion written by Justice Sebring. The court noted Florida law limited UF admissions to white students.
Court again denied Hawkins admission to UF saying there were no new reasons evident to change its opinion from 1950, and that the law school at Florida A&M satisfied the state's obligation to offer Hawkins a public legal education, opinion written by Justice Sebring.
Court again denied Hawkins admission to UF saying the alternative of attending law school at the public law school established at Florida A&M adequately provided Hawkins his right to a legal education, opinion written by Justice Sebring.
The U.S. Supreme court here threw out the "separate but equal" doctrine in education, ruling that separate but equal educational facilities for blacks and whites are inherently unequal and that segregated educational facilities violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Here the U.S. Supreme court May 31, 1955 reaffirmed its finding in the 1954 case that separate but equal educational facilities were unconstitutional and ordered schools to admit students to public schools on a racially non-discriminatory basis "with all deliberate speed."
The Florida Supreme Court in an October 19, 1955 opinion written by B.K. Roberts acknowledged the U.S. Supreme Court's instructions to admit Hawkins to UF law school immediately, but thought up reasons to avoid doing so. B.K. Roberts refused to admit Hawkins and came up with delaying tactics requiring Florida to first assess the problems integration would cause and the danger of serious public mischief and possible embarrassment of the orderly functioning of government. One remarkable concurring opinion by Justice Terrell cited natural law and stated segregation has always been the unvarying law of the animal kingdom and that it was God's plan to allot each race its own continent with Europe for whites and Africa for blacks.
Notably, two justices dissented and said the U.S. Supreme Court had spoken and that Hawkins should be admitted to UF immediately, and the Florida court had a binding obligation to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court and--notwithstanding one's personal views on segregation--for Roberts to defy a legitimate order of the U.S. Supreme Court violated the oath all justices had taken to "support, protect and defend" the federal constitution.
Hawkins went back to the U.S. Supreme Court which again ordered the Florida Supreme Court to admit Hawkins to UF immediately, stating "there is no reason for delay" and Hawkins "is entitled to prompt admission" on the same basis as other qualified candidates.
Despite the U.S. Supreme Court clearly stating there was no reason for delay, in this opinion B.K. Roberts again came up with more reasons to delay Hawkins' admission, among them "states rights" and the likelihood of "great public mischief." Among the mischief expected was the probability white students would drop out of UF if a black were admitted, a loss of white alumni support, and a decline in revenue to white institutions. Roberts, in justifying his decision to again deny Hawkins admission to UF, said admitting blacks would lead to violence in university communities and a critical disruption of the university system (the disruption to life for blacks like Hawkins apparently was not important enough to be considered).
Again, two two justices dissented and said the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken and Hawkins should be admitted to UF immediately, with Justice Hobson noting that federal law was paramount and to defy the order of the U.S. Supreme Court to admit Hawkins to UF without delay would "stultify (his) oath of office." Once more, a concurring opinion by now Chief Justice Terrell relied on a natural law theory to justify segregation noting segregation was as old as the hills and was practiced at least since ancient times when the Egyptians segregated the Israelis.
The Court ruled that Hawkins deserved a hearing in federal court to present evidence of discrimination and why he should be admitted to UF.
The Court ruled that UF was prohibited from enforcing any policy, custom or usage of limiting admission to the graduate schools to white persons only. The court, lacking evidence of Hawkins' qualifications, did not order UF to admit him to the UF law school.
Florida Supreme Court gave special permission for Hawkins to be admitted to the Florida Bar based on his out of state diploma and waived the requirement he take the bar examination.
Hawkins received a public reprimand in a disciplinary case after a finding he incompetently handled a felony case.
The Florida Supreme Court posthumously reinstated Hawkins to the Florida Bar after his voluntary resignation from the bar in 1985 and his death earlier in 1988.