In Memoriam

Edward Vernon Williams (1912-2005)

Edward Williams, the first black graduate of the Kansas University School of Medicine, died late last year in Muskegon, Michigan. He was 94 years old.

Williams was a native of Ellsworth, Kansas. He was valedictorian of his high school class and entered the University of Kansas in 1931. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and was an accomplished classical pianist. Believing that he would not be able to make money as a musician, in 1936 he entered the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Other black students had preceded Williams at the medical school. But it was the university’s policy that after two years of classroom training, black students had to transfer to another medical school for clinical training over concerns that white patients would not want to be examined by a black doctor in training. Kansas governor Walter Huxman ordered an end to this policy, permitting Williams to stay on and graduate.

After serving in the military, Williams opened a practice in Muskegon. He lived in his office and visited patients’ homes on foot or by bicycle. He continued to practice medicine in Muskegon until his retirement.

Alvin Duncan “Mike” Malone (1943-2006)

Mike Malone, the long-time professor of theater arts at Howard University, died last month at his home in Washington, D.C.

A native of Pittsburgh, Malone enrolled at Georgetown University at the age of 16. He was at that time an accomplished dancer. He majored in French and spent his junior year in Paris where he became acquainted with Josephine Baker who rekindled his love for the performing arts.

After graduating from Georgetown University, he continued his study of French at Howard University while also pursuing a master’s degree in theater at the Catholic University of America.

Malone was the cofounder of the D.C. Black Repertory Dance Theater and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He joined the Howard University faculty in 1970 for a short time and returned in 1988 as a professor of music theater. Each Christmas, Malone would stage Langston Hughes’ play Black Nativity.

Jane Matilda Bolin (1908-2007)

Jane Bolin, one of the first black graduates of Wellesley College, the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School, and the nation’s first black female judge, died earlier this month in New York City. She was 98 years old.

Jane Matilda Bolin was the daughter of Gaius Bolin, an attorney who had been the first African American to earn a degree at Williams College. In 1924 Jane Bolin graduated from high school at the age of 15. She lived only a stone’s throw away from Vassar College, a Seven Sister school in Poughkeepsie, New York. But instead she enrolled at Wellesley College because, at that time, Vassar did not admit blacks. She graduated with honors in four years and then enrolled at Yale Law School, where she was a classmate of Edward R. Murrow.

Bolin moved to New York City and opened a law practice with her husband. In 1937 Bolin was named assistant corporation counsel for the City of New York. Two years later she was summoned to a meeting with Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Bolin expected to be fired, or at least reprimanded, but could not fathom what she had done wrong. After she had been waiting apprehensively for some time, the mayor burst into the room and abruptly said, “Raise your right hand. I am going to make you a judge.” Her appointment to the Domestic Relations Court made Bolin the nation’s first black woman judge. She served nearly 40 years on the court.

In 1978 Bolin was required to retire at age 70. At the time Judge Bolin said, “I don’t want to go. They’re kicking me out.”