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George Martin Recalls Founding of UVA Office of African-American Affairs

December 21, 2016

Richmond Office Managing Partner George Keith Martin is prominently featured in a UVA Today story about the 40th anniversary of the University of Virginia’s Office of African-American Affairs and the student leaders who created it in the mid-1970s.

Martin, a 1975 UVA graduate who became the school’s first African-American rector in 2013, recalled the changes at his alma mater in the 1970s when black students and women were shattering barriers that had been in place since the 18th century.

In the Dec. 13 story produced by the university’s communications office, Martin praised former McGuireWoods partner, the late Leroy R. Hassell, who served on the Virginia Supreme Court and became the commonwealth’s first black chief justice.

“We are all standing on the shoulders of people like Leroy,” Martin said, noting Hassell’s role in establishing the Office of African American Affairs. With Hassell leading the way, the Black Student Alliance called for UVA to develop an effective minority recruiting plan, add more African-American faculty and fully fund a black studies program. The student alliance presented the proposal to the university’s president in 1975, and the Office of African-American Affairs resulted from it.

The story noted that Martin recently gave the keynote speech at a dinner for about 200 guests that commemorated the Office of African-American Affairs’ 40th anniversary.

“It’s so important to have African-Americans in positions of leadership, because it sends a message to recruits — whether students, faculty or staff — that the university is open to them and their potential is illimitable. They are welcome here. It also sends a message to the state, the country and the world that UVA values inclusion,” Martin said.