Me (l) with Virgil Hawkins (c) and Mark Roeder (r) in Tallahassee in 1983
I am Danni Vogt, 63 year old creator of this website. My parents raised me to do what's right, which inspired this quest to rename B.K. Roberts Hall for a more appropriate person.
I am a 3-time FSU graduate (Florida High School 1972, B.A. 1977 and J.D. 1984) and remain a strong FSU supporter. I first came across this saga in 1982 while in my second year of law school when I was in the library doing some research and noticed a stamp on a volume of Southern Second that said "Property of Florida A&M School of Law." Though I had attended some journalism classes at Florida A&M as an undergraduate, I was very naive and had no idea FAMU ever had a law school. Being a curious person, I investigated further and found the whole story through the string of court cases detailing Virgil Hawkins's efforts to desegregate the UF law school.
I was incensed by the story of the injustice faced by Hawkins and the dark irony that our school's classroom building was named for B.K. Roberts, the person who was instrumental in repeatedly blocking Hawkins from law school because of his race--even after the U.S. Supreme Court twice had said there was no reason for delay. We were taught over and over again in law school to be morally fit and and maintain high ethical standards, but I was faced with the paradox that our building was named after a justice who seemingly violated his judicial oath to uphold the constitution and ignored ethical standards requiring judges to honor orders of a higher court in order to promote his personal agenda to keep blacks out of a public law school.
Many of my classmates in law school also were upset and our repeated vows to sneak on campus in the middle of the night to knock down the B.K. Roberts Hall sign with sledgehammers (originally suggested by visiting speaker Millard Farmer) never came to fruition. But I did trace down Virgil Hawkins, then practicing law in Leesburg, and invited him to come to Tallahassee to speak at the law school.
Virgil Hawkins made a triumphant return to Tallahassee and the fiery speech he gave in the student lounge of B.K. Roberts Hall on February 10, 1983 remains one of the highlights of my life, and my role in providing him a stage to voice his side of the story and explain the injustice of his struggle was very satisfying. In retrospect, I regret I did not also invite B.K. Roberts to the speech for a historic reconciliation.
Shortly after the speech, a few fellow law students and I worked with Rep. Carrie Meek (D-Miami) to get a bill filed in the legislature to have the new FSU law library, then under construction, named for Virgil Hawkins to balance out the other campus building being named for B.K. Roberts. During the legislative process, the bill morphed into a scholarship program for minority law students and today the library remains nameless.
The fact the B.K. Roberts name is still on the law school in 2018 remains galling to me and has caused many alumni I know to refrain from making a financial contribution to the law school. While the school keeps rising in the national rankings, this issue continues to prevent the school from being all it could be.
Danni (left) with Florida Gov. Rick Scott in 2017
As for the Florida A&M law school, it was created in 1949 after Virgil Hawkins applied to UF and was supposed to provide a separate but equal alternative so that black Floridians had a place other than UF to get a legal education. It admitted its first class in 1951 on the Tallahassee campus and in 1966, the same year the FSU law school opened, Florida A&M stopped admitting new students and it graduated its last class in 1968 from the original school. Many in Tallahassee remain upset feeling that FSU stole Florida A&M's law school, and evidence from the time shows the fact the Florida A&M school closed at the same time as the FSU school opened was not coincidental. In 2000, the Florida A&M Law School was re-established in Orlando and remains open today.