W. George Allen, the first African American to earn a degree at the University of Florida, died earlier this month. He was 83 years old.
Allen was a native of Sanford, Florida, and attended racially segregated schools. He graduated from Florida A&M University in June 1958, with a degree in political science and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. He served in Army intelligence for two years on active duty and four years in the Reserves.
In 1960, Allen enrolled at the University of Florida College of Law. Allen told Florida Trend in 2013: “The racists told me I didn’t belong there and I’d never graduate. I got into one or two fights with students who were disrespectful, but I never considered quitting. I made it known that you’re not going to run me away. You’re not going to scare me. I’m going to outstudy all of you, and I’m going to graduate.”
Upon graduating in December 1962, Allen became the first African American to earn a degree from any former all-white institution in Florida.
After graduating from law school, Allen moved to Fort Lauderdale, where he established a legal practice and helped to integrate public schools, housing, and parks in Broward County. In 1988, he became president of the Broward County Bar Association — the first African American president of a major bar association in Florida.