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Black History Month 2020 at the UK Rosenberg College of Law

As the University of Kentucky commemorates 70 years of integration with special events and speakers all year long, the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law wants to recognize a few of our African American graduates who paved the way for others and excelled in their careers.

Visit this page every Monday for an update.

Ollen B. Hinnant II

Hinnant, who died in 2016, became the college’s first African American graduate in 1955. Hinnant, a Lexington native, graduated from Kentucky State University in 1952. He overcame various forms of discrimination while in law school then went on to become the first African American lawyer for State Farm Insurance in Montclair, New Jersey.

He was also a member of the National Bar Association Hall of Fame, assistant general counsel in the International Law Department at Prudential Insurance Co., and the special assistant to the chairman of the board for Prudential.

Eventually, he returned to private practice in Lexington. In 1997, he became the first African American inducted into the UK Rosenberg College of Law Hall of Fame.

Sarah Howard Jenkins

Jenkins is the Charles C. Baum Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.

Through her scholarship and participation in the quasi-legislative legal reform processes of the American Bar Association, she sought to ensure parity among diverse interests in commercial law. Her work has already made a difference for people who otherwise would not have been represented in the reform of commercial law in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. Jenkins’ involvement with an ABA Task Force on Suretyship, and one of her articles, was motivated in part by the large number of elderly women in predominantly African American churches who generously guaranteed the debts of family and congregational members. Without her involvement, these members of our community would have been unrepresented in the reform processes.

Jenkins is a member of the prestigious American Law Institute and she has served as chair of the ABA UCC Subcommittee on Article 1, during the revision of UCC Article 1, and the Subcommittee on Payment Systems, 2007 through 2010.
Twice, she has served as chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Commercial and Related Consumer Law and as member of the AALS Standing Committee on Recruitment and Retention of Minority Faculty and Students. She has published extensively on commercial law issues, organized several symposia of distinguished domestic scholars, and is the author of Volume 13 of the Revised Corbin on Contracts.

In 2017, she became the first African American woman inducted into the UK J. David Rosenberg College of Law and Law Alumni Association Hall of Fame.​

Jesse Crenshaw

Crenshaw served as Kentucky state representative of the 77th House District for 22 years, from 1993 – 2015.

He received his B.A. from Kentucky State University and J.D. from the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law in 1973. He later worked for the state labor department, taught criminal justice at Kentucky State University and served as the first black assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern Judicial District of Kentucky.

When Crenshaw was elected to the Kentucky Legislature in 1993, he became the first African American from Fayette County to be elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives.

Crenshaw, along with former Kentucky Chief Justice Joseph Lambert, was instrumental in the successful state legislation to establish and fund the Kentucky Legal Education Opportunity (KLEO) program, patterned after the national CLEO program to increase the number of historically under-presented students in Kentucky’s public law schools.

Brenda Joyce Hamer

Born in South Carolina, Hamer’s mother and father later moved to Washington, D.C. This was the first in a series of steps that would take Hamer from segregated schools to becoming one of the two first African American women to graduate from the University of Kentucky Rosenberg College of Law in 1973.

She later had a long career in government and private practice. Hamer graduated from Tennessee State University in Nashville, where she was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Hamer was elected vice 
president of student government.

During her 3L year in law school, she won the regional moot court competition in Columbus, Ohio, where she was also named Outstanding Oral Advocate.