The Virgil C. Lott Medal
In 2011, the University of Texas School of Law established the Virgil C. Lott Medal to honor our first African American graduate. The medal is presented every other year at a gala dinner, and recipients are chosen by a distinguished committee headed by Dean Ward Farnsworth, former Dean Larry Sager, and previous winners. Dean Farnsworth describes the mission of the award and ceremony thusly: “Virgil C. Lott, ‘53 was the first African American graduate of The University of Texas School of Law. The Law School commissioned the Virgil C. Lott Medal to honor the memory of this pioneer and distinguished alumnus. This award honors men and women who, like Mr. Lott, have made significant contributions to the legal profession and to the improvement of understanding among all peoples.”
Previous recipients of the Virgil C. Lott Medal are: Former Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court Wallace B. Jefferson, Class of 1988, who received the medal in 2011; Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis, Class of 1979, who was honored in 2013; the Hon. Ron Kirk, Class of 1979, former Mayor of Dallas and the U.S. Trade Representative from 2009 to 2013. Mr. Kirk was awarded the medal in 2015; and, Myra McDaniel, Class of 1975, Texas’ first African American Secretary of State who was honored in 2017.
Mr. Bledsoe was honored at a gala dinner on February 7, 2019, where his family and the leadership of the Law School will be joined by the family and friends of Virgil C. Lott.
About Gary Bledsoe
A renowned civil rights lawyer, Gary Bledsoe has served as president of the NAACP Texas State Conference since 1991 and Austin NAACP Branch President from 1987 to 1991. Additional he is a member of the NAACP National Board since 2003 and chaired the National Criminal Justice Committee of the organization. In 2017, Bledsoe was named acting dean of Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
For his work in voting rights, desegregation, and employment discrimination, Bledsoe has received lawyer of the year awards from the Texas Attorney General, the Travis County Bar Association, and the Austin Area Urban League. He is also a recipient of the NAACP Benjamin L. Hooks Keeper of the Flame award for significant contributions to racial equality and fairness in labor, and the National NAACP State President of the Year Award. Bledsoe is also a member of the American Civil Liberties Union Board of Directors. Under Bledsoe’s leadership, the Texas NAACP received two Juanita Jackson Mitchell Advocacy Awards for Legal Activism.
Bledsoe was a member of the Thurgood Marshall Society and Standards Committee while he was in law school. He awarded the Student Bar Association Consul Award, given to senior law students who have made outstanding contributions to the School of Law. He was elected permanent class president for the Class of 1976.
About Virgil C. Lott
In 1953, Virgil Lott became the first African American graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Born in Austin, Texas, he graduated from Anderson High School and earned his undergraduate degree in business administration from Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson University) in 1949. Mr. Lott served with valor in the United States Army during World War II in England, France, and Belgium.
Mr. Lott was also a pioneer in the legal profession. He was instrumental in devising the legal justification for the development of multi-family housing for low-income families under the Federal Housing Administration’s insured loan programs. Mr. Lott was the first African American ever to sit on the bench of a court in Austin.
Mr. Lott was also well known for his civic leadership. He was the founding president of the Capital City Lions Club, and he served as finance chairman of the Eagles division, Boy Scouts of America. He served as attorney for David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, and as an advisor to St. Joseph Grand Masonic Lodge; in both of these roles, he worked to expand the availability of affordable housing to low- and moderate-income families.
Mr. Lott’s strong sense of duty, devotion to his community and country, and respect for his fellow human beings earned him the admiration and friendship of a host of civic leaders, business and professional associates, and all who had the privilege of knowing him in his too-short life.
The Virgil C. Lott Medal honors those who, like its namesake, serve the interests of our society with integrity and who, by word and deed, reflect our better selves.