Civil Rights Pioneer Vel Phillips '51 Honored as Trailblazer at LEO Fall Reception

Vel Phillips

Vel Phillips, civil rights pioneer and community activist, was honored October 26 at the Fall LEO Reception as the first inductee into the UW Law School Trailblazer Walkway.

The walkway recognizes those who have made significant contributions to the Law School. Located on the third floor atrium catwalk, the display provides a visual history of where the school has been and how far we have come.

Vel Phillips, who built a career of "firsts" as both a woman and an African-American in Wisconsin, is a true trailblazer. In 1951, she became the first African-American woman to obtain a law degree from the University of Wisconsin. She was the first African-American and the first woman elected to Milwaukee's Common Council in 1956. In 1971, she was appointed by Governor Patrick J. Lucey to the Milwaukee County judiciary, becoming the first woman judge in Milwaukee County and the first African-American judge in Wisconsin.

In 1978, Phillips again made history by being the first woman and first African-American elected as the Secretary of State in Wisconsin. She remains the highest-ranking African-American to win state office in Wisconsin.

Attending the reception were many who wished to honor Phillips' remarkable contributions and her ongoing role as a champion of equality in the community.

"Vel has lived a remarkable life, and used the tools she acquired at the University of Wisconsin Law School to change the world," says Dean Raymond. "I'm delighted that we have honored her as the first UW Law School Trailblazer."

Submitted by UW Law News on December 7, 2011

This article appears in the categories: Alumni, Articles

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