University of Wisconsin Honors the First African-American Woman Graduate of Its Law School

The University of Wisconsin at Madison recently renamed a residence hall to honor Vel Phillips. In 1951, Phillips, a graduate of Howard University, was the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin’s law school. She was the first woman and the first African American elected to the Milwaukee Common Council. She served on that body from 1956 to 1971. She was then appointed a judge to the Milwaukee County Court System. She was the first woman judge in Milwaukee County and the first African-American judge in Wisconsin.

In 1978 she was elected secretary of state in Wisconsin. She was the first woman and first African American elected to statewide office.

Vel Phillips Hall in one of the few buildings on campus named after women and only the second named after an African American.

Now 87 years old, Phillips attended the ceremony renaming the residence hall in her honor.

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