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Civil Rights founder and Freedom Rider U.S. Rep. John Lewis to speak at Stetson Law graduation May 16



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          Contact:  Brandi Palmer

April 22, 2009                                                                         Communications Office

                                                                                                (727) 562-7381


Civil Rights founder and Freedom Rider U.S. Rep. John Lewis to speak at Stetson Law graduation May 16


TAMPA BAY, Fla. Civil Rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia will speak to more than 250 graduates of Stetson University College of Law on May 16 at 9 a.m. at

1401 61st St. S.
in Gulfport, Fla.


Rep. Lewis is a lifelong advocate of civil liberties who played a leading role in passing the Voting Rights Act and in ending segregation in America.

Born to sharecroppers in Alabama, Lewis attended segregated schools and was inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to join the Civil Rights Movement. As a student at FiskUniversity, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tenn. In 1961, he joined the Freedom Rides, challenging Jim Crow segregation in the South. At the age of 23, he was speaking to the same enormous crowd who heard King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the historic March on Washington.

On March 7, 1965, Lewis and Hosea Williams led more than 600 people on The Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights. Lewis and others were brutally beaten by state troopers as they crossed the EdmundPettusBridge. The event became known as “Bloody Sunday” and led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Stetson University College of Law is considered a leader in teaching Civil Rights Law. Stetson Law professor Robert Dale Bickel and University of SouthFlorida professor Raymond Arsenault lead an innovative annual directed study program that takes students on a two-thousand mile bus trip through the South to retrace a substantial portion of the Freedom Rides.


The graduating law class includes 25 students who have earned both an M.B.A. and J.D. degree, and 21 part-time students who have earned a J.D. degree. Eight students have earned LL.M. degrees in international law and three students have earned LL.M. degrees in elder law.


Outstanding graduates in the May 2009 class include:

  • Louis Brown III, who is a St. Petersburg native and dual J.D./M.B.A. graduate, former 5th Circuit Governor for the American Bar Association Law Student Division, Student Bar Association Legislative Council class representative and active member of the Black Law Students Association at Stetson Law.


  • Becky Farrar, who recently won an award from Amnesty International USA for helping to start a chapter on Stetson’s campus, president of Stetson’s Public Service Fellows, and participant in Stetson’s educational Street Law program for local middle school students.   



  • Chris Sprowls, national chair of the American Bar Association Law Student Division and former division delegate to the ABA House of Delegates, who spear-headed a veteran’s advocacy initiative, interned for the Chief Republican Counsel at the Committee on Homeland Security and is an award-winning advocate on Stetson’s Moot Court and Trial Team.



To read more about Rep. Lewis and download a high-resolution image, please visit Stetson Law online at http://www.law.stetson.edu/tmpl/news/article.aspx?id=5742 .



Stetson UniversityCollege of Law is Florida’s first law school. It has educated lawyers for more than a century. The law school is located in the Gulfport/St. Petersburg area with a law center in downtown Tampa.

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