Log in

FAMU Law graciously accepts desk of Groveland Four attorney from the Apopka Historical Society 


With humble hearts, leadership at Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law graciously accepted the desk used by the late defense attorney Alexander Akerman, Jr. as he fought against racism, prejudice, and hatred in the 1940s and 1950s. 

The historic desk is a gift from the Apopka Historical Society.  

“We are delighted to make this unique contribution to the preservation of history,” said President of the Apopka Historical Society Maribel Brinkle. “This desk, once a silent witness to a crucial moment in our legal history, will now have a new home at Florida A&M University’s College of Law."   

According to Brinkel, the Apopka Historical Society acquired the desk from Cathleen and Jesse McGee, family members who had possession. Cathleen is the granddaughter of Ackerman.

Akerman was a prominent defense attorney who played a pivotal role in the legal proceedings of the Groveland Four case, one of the most notorious racial injustice cases in Florida's history.  Akerman was a member of the prestigious legal team led by Thurgood Marshall. Other lawyers on the team included Jack Greenberg and Paul Perkins, Sr.

The Groveland Four were African American men wrongfully accused of sexually assaulting a white woman in Lake County in 1949. Akerman's dedication to justice led him to defend these men despite the challenging circumstances of the time.  

The four men were exonerated in 2021.

"Alexander Akerman Jr. was not just a defense attorney; he was a symbol of resilience and commitment to justice. His efforts in the Groveland Four case are etched in the legacy of legal history." said Brinkle. "This desk will serve as a tangible reminder of the struggles for justice and equality. It's a connection to our past and an inspiration for the future legal minds that pass through these halls of the FAMU College of Law."  

FAMU Law hosted a program where the desk was unveiled to students, faculty, staff, community partners, and friends of both the Apopka Historical Society and FAMU Law.

Akerman was considered a civil rights pioneer for taking racially motivated legal cases that other attorneys would not touch. He is also credited with filing the lawsuit for Virgil Hawkins against the University of Florida for denying him entry. Akerman also represented five additional students who hoped to integrate graduate and professional programs at the University of Florida. As a result of the lawsuits, in December of 1949, the FAMU College of Law, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Engineering, and graduate program in Agriculture were created.

“FAMU Law accepts this symbol of civil rights and justice for all in the form of attorney Akerman’s work desk,” said FAMU Law’s Interim Dean Cecil Howard.  “Our law students will surely be inspired by this keepsake for decades to come.”

Akerman’s desk will be displayed in the law school’s atrium before being permanently moved to the fourth floor in the library near the Virgil Hawkins Collection.

Florida A&M University School of Law, FAMU, Apopka Historical Society, Groveland 4, Alexander Akerman


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here