July 5, 1973
On July 5, 1973, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Roy Wilkins delivered the first annual Wendell L. Willkie Memorial Lecture in the IU School of Law-Indianapolis building on the IUPUI campus.
Willkie (1892-1944) was a 1916 graduate of IU School of Law in Bloomington. A New York businessman and attorney, In 1940 Willkie ran against President Franklin Roosevelt as the Republican Party nominee. He embraced social-justice reforms and the integration of the armed forces in his campaign. Despite a crushing electoral college defeat, Willkie continued his work in civil rights after the end of his campaign. In 1942, he addressed an NAACP convention, a pioneering act in its day.
The lecture at the IU School of Law-Indianapolis (now called the Robert H. McKinney School of Law) was established by Philip Willkie, Wendell Willkie’s only child. Citing a close friendship between his father and Wilkins, the younger Willkie saw the NAACP leader as an appropriate choice to give the first lecture.
Wilkins (1901-1981) is remembered as a prominent Civil Rights leader. A New York journalist and national organizer, he was one of the planners of the 1963 March on Washington. He served as both executive secretary and executive director of the NAACP for many years. Under his leadership, the NAACP scored significant Civil Rights victories to advance equality under the law for all citizens, including the Brown v. Board of Education US Supreme Court ruling and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Wilkins stepped down from his post in 1977 at the age of 76.
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