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Tulane Law School Holds Memorial Service to Honor First African-American Graduate

February 07, 2011


e stand on the shoulders of giants,” remarked second-year Tulane law student Ashley Banks. “The giants who came before us challenged a social institution of racism, segregation, prejudice and inequality and gave us the opportunity to do the same for others.”

Banks delivered her remarks on Friday, February 4, to a gathering of Tulane Law School alumni, students, faculty and friends who gathered in the Gauthier Appellate Moot Court Room at Weinmann Hall to honor the late Michael A. Starks (L ’68)—the first African-American graduate of Tulane Law School and the first black lawyer in the New Orleans city attorney’s office. A native New Orleanian, Starks passed away January 8, in Temple Terrace, Fla., after a long illness. He was 67.

According to Banks, 2010-11 president of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), “Michael Starks was one of those giants.”

“When he enrolled at Tulane University Law School, he not only embarked upon his own professional career, but he forever changed this institution,” Banks said. “Because of Mr. Starks, we can promote culture, commitment, and diversity of persons, ideas, backgrounds and beliefs. Because of Mr. Starks, we can pursue a more complete legal education, and even more, a life of service.”

Tulane Law School dean David Meyer, Mitchell Franklin Professor of Law, led Friday’s reflections.

“I deeply regret that in my short time at Tulane, I never had the opportunity to meet Michael. That is a personal loss,” Meyer stated. “But, in a very real sense, I am touched by Michael every day as I walk these hallways, interact with our students, and meet our talented alumni across the nation. Michael opened a door at Tulane Law School . . . and, in doing so, he has immeasurably enriched and helped to transform this great law school.”

In addition to Ms. Banks and Dean Meyer, members of the Starks family, as well as additional members from the Tulane Law community, reflected on Michael’s life. Donning green and white ribbons to honor Starks’s legacy, guests included his ex-wife, Carol Starks, and their daughter, Michelle Starks; one granddaughter; Mr. Duane P. McCollum and Ms. Sandra Starks McCollum, Starks’s nephew and sister; New Orleans City Attorney Nanette Jolivette-Brown (L ’88, LLM ’98); and Judge Michael G. Bagneris (L ’75).

A reception in the Berkett Multipurpose Room followed the service, where friends and family continued to share stories and celebrate the legacy of Michael Starks. In lieu of flowers, the Starks family recommends contributions to the Tulane Law School Diversity Fund, 6329 Freret Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118. To read Dean Meyer's remarks,  click here .

In the years since Michael Starks’s graduation, Tulane Law School has graduated more than 700 African-American students and more than 1,600 students of color. What began with one remarkable man now makes up roughly a fifth of all Tulane law graduates since Michael’s graduation.

Meyer Starks

Above, Dean David Meyer pays tribute to Tulane Law School alum Michael Starks (August 22, 1943 - January 8, 2011); Below, 2L Ashley Banks, BLSA president,thanks Starks for changing Tulane Law School forever.



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