College of William and Mary Honors Its First Black Graduate

The William and Mary Law School in Virginia recently unveiled a portrait of Edward Augustus Travis, its first African American graduate. The portrait, which will hang at the law school, was painted by Connie Desaulniers, who only had three old photographs of Travis to use as a reference. As a result, she used the memories of Travis’ daughter to give her a better understanding of the appearance and nature of the man she was painting.

Travis was a native of Lawrenceville, Virginia. He attended what is now Hampton University and later graduated from Florida A&M University. He enrolled at the William and Mary Law School in 1951 and graduated three years later with bachelor of civil law degree. No other Black student graduated from the law school for the next 18 years. Travis was also the first African American to earn any degree from the College of William and Mary, the second oldest institution of higher education in the United States.

After graduating from law school, Travis taught high school in Virginia. He died in 1960 in Newport News, Virginia, at the age of 49.

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