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St. Thomas University names its law school after Ben Crump

 Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump delivering his keynote address
Tom Flanigan
Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump delivering his keynote address

Ben Crump represented the family of Trayvon Martin is now representing the family of Tyre Nichols, who died in January after being beaten by a group of Memphis police officers.

A private university in Miami has named its law school after a prominent Black Civil Rights attorney with Tallahassee roots.

St. Thomas has become the first law school in the country to be named after a current, practicing Black attorney. In a statement, St Thomas says Ben Crump chose to partner with the school because it’s one of the country’s most diverse law schools and has a focus on racial justice.

The naming of the Benjamin L. Crump College of Law at St. Thomas University is the latest step in an effort to encourage bridge-building among the legal profession, law enforcement, and our communities,” said St. Thomas University President, David Armstrong. “Ben and I couldn’t be more different politically, but we share a passion for justice and the hope that by working together, we can continue to drive meaningful change. Our faith in God, and our belief in the tenets laid out by our founding fathers in the US Constitution, enable us to go beyond race and politics, and focus on the work necessary to truly make the United States the home of the free, and the brave.”

In his naming ceremony, Crump himself highlighted that mission.

“What you are investing in is an opportunity to be a part of a spark of light. A spark that will ignite a change that will help make the law be an institution for good and not for evil,” he said.

On hand at the ceremony were Tallahassee Pastor RB Holmes, Jesse Jackson and actor, Will Smith.

Crump is a Florida native who has made Tallahassee his home. He has remained a resident since coming to Florida State University in the 1990s, where he earned his law degree. His civil rights work began in earnest in 2006 when he represented the family of Martin Lee Anderson, a Black teenager who died after being beaten by guards at a juvenile detention facility in Panama City. Crump won a $5 million civil suit against the state, even though the guards who beat Anderson were acquitted of all charges.

The attorney would later go on to represent the family of Trayvon Martin, who was killed by a self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman in Sanford. George Zimmerman initially avoided arrest in the shooting, but Crump and Martin’s family pressed for charges which were eventually brought forth. Police initially did not arrest Zimmerman for the incident, but Crump pressed police to charge him with murder, and they did. Zimmerman claimed he shot Martin in self-defense and a jury returned a not-guilty verdict. The Martin case is widely cited to have sparked the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

Crump is currently representing the family of Tyre Nichols, who died in January after being beaten by a group of Memphis Police Officers. He has also represented the families of other victims of police violence, such as Michael Brown, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor..

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Brendan Brown