UGA law school unveils graduate's painting depicting the university's desegregation


The University of Georgia School of Law unveiled a new painting by William Elliott Stiles Jr. - an accomplished artist, Atlanta attorney law school alumnus - to commemorate the 60th anniversary of desegregation at UGA.

The piece, titled "1961," will be displayed alongside other pieces of Stiles' "Concept Collection" that were donated to the school in 2018. This latest submission depicts the historic events of the desegregation of UGA and the Georgia public school system.

At the unveiling, Stiles asked attendees a question - "Where were you at the age of 18 and 19?" - in order to remind them of how young the university's first Black students, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter (now Hunter-Gault) were when they made history.

Stiles, a 2006 cum laude graduate of the law school who now specializes in commercial vehicle litigation in Atlanta, began painting while in high school and said this creative activity was a much-needed stress reliever during his time as a law student. In fact, while studying in Athens, he created and donated a piece titled "The Common Law" to the school. The "Concept Collection," which will include "1961" as well as another new piece by Stiles, titled "Madam Vice President," is a series of hand-painted originals portraying various legal themes and containing references to the School of Law.

Noting the exceptional nature of a virtual art unveiling, Dean Peter B. "Bo" Rutledge said, "There is still beauty in the world even if we have to look harder for it." He also encouraged individuals - especially those in high-stress professions such as the legal field - to take time to reflect on history and aesthetics as part of their essential work-life balance.

In addition to Stiles, several other members of the law school community spoke about the significance of UGA's desegregation and the power of art to serve as a vessel through which to see the past and future. They included: Alumnae Verda Colvin, a Georgia Court of Appeals judge, and Kimberly Burroughs Debrow, a DeKalb County assistant district attorney and adjunct professor, as well as Sibley Professor in Corporate and Business Law Larry D. Thompson and his wife, Brenda, avid patrons of Black artists. Second-year law students and members of the Davenport-Benham Chapter of the Black Law Students Association Jeffrey Hendricks and Donavan Juleus also addressed attendees.