Renowned civil rights attorney Benjamin L. Crump and St. Thomas University College of Law announced on December 2, an initiative to prepare new and diverse lawyers to lead the fight against injustice.
The Benjamin L. Crump Center for Social Justice at the St. Thomas University College of Law will provide innovative programming, symposia, and training to catalyze the next generation of social justice engineers.
The Center is initially funded by a $1 million leadership grant from Truist Financial Corporation through its Truist Charitable Fund, a donor-advised fund at The Winston-Salem Foundation.
That day also marked the opening of a $35 million campaign by the College of Law to support ongoing transformative efforts to champion students from traditionally marginalized communities and diversify the legal profession.
Mr. Crump has been a leader in civil rights litigation this century, representing the families of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, among others, testified in the United States Congress as well as at the United Nations, and was recognized with accolades on the global stage by Time magazine.
Throughout his career, he has vigorously defended the rights of marginalized peoples and has led the call for criminal justice reform, as well as fairness for plaintiffs and access to the courts in all cases irrespective of race, class, or economic status.
“I believe America can be a country that lives up to its ideals, if we work for it,” Crump said.
“Lawyers can be the social engineers, using the tools found in the Constitution, to expose the nature and depth of injustices — and to eliminate these injustices through education and advocacy.
“This center will serve as a pipeline for historically marginalized students to get their law degrees and give back to society, following the legacy of my personal hero, Thurgood Marshall.”
The Benjamin L. Crump Center for Social Justice is intentionally located at the St. Thomas University College of Law, one of the nation’s most diverse law schools with established expertise in the areas of civil rights, human rights, and social justice law consistent with its Catholic mission.
“St. Thomas University and its College of Law are honored to house the Benjamin L. Crump Center for Social Justice on our campus,” said University President David A. Armstrong, J.D. “The Center will create opportunities for students who might have felt the legal profession was beyond their reach. We will all benefit from the impact they will have.”
The Center’s work has already begun.
It currently supports an incubator program for new lawyers establishing themselves in the field, expanded pro bono service placements and increased need-based scholarship aid.
Black males make up the smallest cohort of law school students across all law schools — something St. Thomas is working to change.
The Center is the new home for the College of Law’s Bald Eagle Initiative, which for 10 years has supported Black male law students achieving excellence both in law school and beyond, as they successfully transition into the profession.
Soon the program will expand to support Black females.
“There is no better role model or mentor for our students than Ben Crump,” said College of Law Dean Tamara Lawson.
“His career is a testament to what can be achieved with an unwavering commitment to justice and protecting those most in need. By joining our community, and partnering together, he is bringing College of Law students into the relevant legal conversations of our time.”
Crump, Armstrong, and Lawson praised Truist for their commitment to the ongoing work of advancing equity in our society.
“In everything we do, Truist inspires and builds better lives and communities, so every person has an equal opportunity to thrive,” said Wendy McSweeney, Truist chief equity, diversity, and inclusion officer.
“The Benjamin L. Crump Center for Social Justice is a catalyst for future generations of lawyers committed to creating a more equitable society, and we’re proud to partner with Attorney Crump and St. Thomas to support the center from day one.”