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

Vel Phillips

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

The purpose of the walkway is to honor those who have made significant contributions to the Law School. Located on the third floor atrium catwalk, the display will provide 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 truly a 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.

Today, Vel continues to be a champion of equality in the community and devotes her time and energy to those in the greatest need. In 2006, the Vel Phillips Foundation was created with a purpose of providing scholarships to minority students and grants to organizations that focus on social justice projects, educational initiatives, employment issues and equality in housing.

She will be honored at the Fall LEO Banquet, which will take place Wednesday, October 26, from 4:00 p.m. to 6 p.m. at UW Law School in Lubar Commons, Room 7200.

To RSVP, contact Jini Jasti at 608-263-7906 or

Submitted by UW Law News on October 21, 2011

This article appears in the categories: Alumni, Articles

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