Rodney Slater, former U.S. secretary of transportation and graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Law, will commemorate the 70th anniversary of Silas Hunt’s admission to the law school. Slater will present The Legacy of Silas Hunt at noon Monday (Feb. 5) in the Bobby McDaniel Classroom at the law school.
Slater will discuss Hunt’s legacy as the first black student admitted to a white Southern university since Reconstruction and the first black student admitted for graduate or professional studies. Hunt was admitted to the UA law school on Feb. 2, 1948. Hunt’s admission was a catalyst for the admission of Wiley Branton, George Haley, George Howard Jr., Christopher Mercer and Jackie Shropshire, who along with Hunt became known as The Six Pioneers.
Slater graduated from the law school in 1980, and while in school he was president of the Black American Law Students Association and the Student Bar Association. As a student, he met Haley, the school’s second black graduate and an assistant on Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. Haley went on to become U.S. ambassador to Gambia and a confidant and lifelong mentor to Slater.
After law school, Slater became Arkansas assistant attorney general, chair of the Arkansas Highway Commission and director of governmental affairs for Arkansas State University before he joined President Bill Clinton’s administration, serving as director of the Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
Slater is partner at Squire Patton Boggs in Washington, D.C., and promotes safer, more efficient, environmentally sound and sustainable worldwide transportation infrastructure — a vision he set as transportation secretary. The law practice focuses on automobile use and development, aviation competition and congestion mitigation, maritime initiatives, high-speed rail corridor development and transportation safety and funding.