Honoring A Pioneer In Law

M. Scott Peeler and Diana Florence

When M. Scott Peeler ’93, ’97 (J.D.) and Diana Florence first learned the story of Sylvia X. Allen ’62 (J.D.), they knew they had to make sure everyone associated with the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law was aware of Allen’s story, too.

Allen was the first Black woman to graduate from Carolina Law, and went on to a distinguished and pioneering career as an attorney. “I recognize what a trailblazer she was, and I think about what she overcame,” Florence said. “Her determination and perseverance really inspired me, and I am just thrilled to be able to be a part of this.” 

Two gifts from Peeler and Florence will commemorate Allen. One gift commissions an artist to create a portrait of Allen, who passed away in 2012, that will be displayed prominently in the school of law. The other gift establishes an endowed scholarship in Allen’s name.

Read more about this Carolina Story….

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In 1951, five African-American students enrolled in Carolina’s School of Law. The move effectively desegregated the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The students who enrolled were Harvey Beech, James Lassiter, J. Kenneth Lee, Floyd McKissick and James Robert Walker.

After they enrolled, other graduate and professional schools at Carolina began admitting African-American students. By the mid-1950s, black students were admitted to the College of Arts & Sciences.

“I just felt like we ought to open up all the windows and doors and air it all out,” Beech once said.  “If I hadn’t, some other child would have had to. We won a war for something that had been denied to other black boys.”

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For Something That Had Been Denied