Earl B. Dickerson, First African American to Earn Juris Doctor from University of Chicago, Honored With Portrait Inside Its Law School

The University of Chicago Law School unveiled a portrait of Earl B. Dickerson, the first African American to earn a juris doctor in 1920.  Chicago artist, Shawn Michael Warren, was commissioned to paint the portrait by recommendation from Andre and Frances Guichard, the owners of Gallery Guichard in Bronzeville. Warren has designed murals in several cities. His murals include the 1921 Black Wall Street Massacre in Tulsa, OK, Major Taylor World’s Fastest in Indianapolis, IN, and Oprah Winfrey in Chicago’s West Loop.

Warren painted Dickerson standing in his home office, wearing a suit with a pocket square and a Kappa Alpha Psi lapel pin. The portrait of Dickerson is the first African American to be displayed in the building and the first portrait of someone who did not teach at the law school. Dickerson’s portrait joins the collection of portraits of Ernst Freund, James Parker Hall, Harry A. Kalven, Jr., Dean Edward Levi, Bernard Meltzer, and Soia Menschikoff.

Sharon Fairley, a graduate and Professor from Practice, said the event was an important moment. “I think we all understand that the images that are on the walls, as an educational institution, have an impact on how the people who work and study here. It was an important step for the law school,” says Fairley.

Members of the Chicago Alumni and Beta Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. were in attendance. In 1919, Dickerson founded the first alumni chapter, the Chicago Alumni and the Beta Chapter at the University of Illinois-Urbana, Champaign, in 1913. Dickerson served as the fraternity’s Fifth Grand Polemarch from 1925-1927.

Rufus Williams, radio personality for WVON 1690AM and a proud member of the Chicago Alumni Chapter, was in attendance to witness history. “I was filled with pride. The speeches that were given by the artist, dean, provost, and professors were so noteworthy of the contributions Earl Dickerson had made for Chicago and the country. His portrait residing at one of the top law schools in the world speaks volumes of what we are capable of doing. Dickerson has done so much and had a big impact on society, his legacy will forever be in the halls at the university. I am proud to be a black man and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.,” says Williams.

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SOURCE: Chicago Defender, Tammy Gibson