At last, Holifield receives FAMU DRS diploma
‘I was proud and appreciative of the fact that I now had completed the academic process and I have a high school diploma to go along with my university diploma and my law school diploma.’
— Bishop Holifield
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
He didn’t march with the recent graduating class of students who were celebrated with pomp and circumstance at FAMU Development and Research School.
But Bishop Holifield felt just as proud as any of the teenagers who walked across the stage two weekends ago during graduation ceremonies. The occasion allowed him to formally complete an education cycle during which he’s already earned a degree from FAMU and later a law degree from Harvard University.
More than 60 years after he should have had his diploma from FAMU High, Holifield received it during a special presentation. He is believed to be one of the first early admission students to attend FAMU after successfully passing what was known as the Florida 12th-Grade Test.
“I was proud and appreciative of the fact that I now had completed the academic process and I have a high school diploma to go along with my university diploma and my law school diploma,” Holifield said.
A retired attorney who spent 26 years of his lengthy career as legal counsel for FAMU, Holifield led the university through two major battles. He was at the forefront of FAMU’s effort to regain a law school. He also led the universities successful bid to gain Division I-AA status from the NCAA in the 1970’s.
Holifield’s legacy also includes being co-founder of the Black Law Students Association at Harvard University. Through the association, Holifield was part of a movement that led to the Ivy League school hiring its first Black professor.
Even with the process that led to Holifield being admitted early to FAMU, he was breaking “new ground,” as he puts it. He recalled having what amounts to an interview with then president George Gore.
His classroom performance also was monitored while he took a double-major of math and political science, he said.
Now with the special graduation presentation, he can feel a sense of fulfillment.
“I always wanted my diploma,” he said, “especially from FAMU High School, which was a great education spring board for me.”