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Marilyn Holifield

Lawyer Marilyn Holifield was born in Tallahassee, Florida on June 17, 1948 to Millicent and Bishop Holifield, Sr. She attended the University of Florida A&M’s Lab School, before transferring to Leon High School in 1963 where she was among the first three African Americans to ever graduate from the school in 1965. Holifield then attended Swarthmore University, where she received her B.A. degree in economics with a concentration in black studies, and was a founding member of the Swarthmore Afro-American Student Society (SASS). In 1972, she graduated from Harvard Law School with her J.D. degree.

From 1972 to 1977, Holifield worked as an assistant counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York City, responsible for litigating class action employment lawsuits in Florida, Alabama, and Missouri, and a major prison reform suit in Georgia. She subsequently served as general counsel for the New York State Division for Youth under Peter Edelman until 1978. Holifield was then hired as a law clerk for the late Appellate Judge Paul Roney in St. Petersburg, Florida, a role she held until 1979. In 1981, she joined the Holland & Knight law firm in Tampa, Florida as its first African American associate. Holifield was transferred to the Miami office in 1984, and made partner in 1986, becoming the first black female partner of a major Florida law firm. Here, her areas of focus included class action litigation and arbitration; labor, employment and benefits; civil rights, discrimination and retaliation; and labor and employment class actions. In 2018, in her capacity as a director for the Miami-Dade North Arts and Humanities Foundation, Holifield helped to establish The Miami Museum of Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora (Miami MOCAAD).

Holifield has served on a multitude of boards, including Swarthmore College’s board of managers, the University of Miami’s board of trustees, the Swarthmore Black Alumni Network (co-founding member), Harvard Alumni Association, and the Harvard Board of Overseers.

She has won numerous awards for her legal work, including Holland & Knight’s highest honor, the Chesterfield Smith Award, in 2000. Holifield was also the recipient of the Anti-Defamation League's Jurisprudence Award in 2011, the 2012 National Bar Association's Gertrude E. Rush Award, HistoryMiami’s Legal Legend Award in 2014, and the 2019 David W. Dyer Professionalism Award presented by the Dade County Bar Association.

Marilyn Holifield was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 18, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.076

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/18/2019

Last Name

Holifield

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

J.

Occupation
Schools

Swarthmore College

Harvard Law School

Florida A&M University Developmental Research School

Leon High School

Nathan B. Young Elementary School

First Name

Marilyn

Birth City, State, Country

Tallahassee

HM ID

HOL25

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Florida

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard and New York

Favorite Quote

Reach higher, think bigger.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

6/17/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Miami

Favorite Food

Vegetables (Spinach and Greens) and Fish

Short Description

Lawyer Marilyn Holifield (1948- ) was hired as the law firm Holland & Knight’s first African American attorney in 1981, and when she made partner in 1986, she became the first black female partner of a major Florida law firm.

Employment

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

New York State Division for Youth

United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

Holland & Knight

Favorite Color

Red, Purple, and Blue

John Silvanus Wilson, Jr.

College president and academic administrator John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. was born on August 16, 1957 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Genester Millicent Nix and John Silvanus Wilson, Sr. He received his B.A. degree in business administration and management from Morehouse College in 1979. In 1981, Wilson earned his M.T.S. degree from Harvard Divinity School. He then attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he earned his Ed.M. degree in education in 1982, and his Ed.D. degree in education in 1985.

Wilson began his career in 1985 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he served as an associate in the analytical studies and planning group in the office of the president. In that role, he conducted research for a report on the experiences of African American students at MIT. He then shifted to financial management and fundraising, serving first in corporate development and, ultimately, as director of foundation relations by 1994. He was an officer in two major capital campaigns at MIT, with goals of $700 million and $2 billion. In 2001, he moved from MIT to The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. During his eight-year career there, Wilson served as senior assistant vice president from September to December 2001, executive dean of the Virginia campus from 2002 to 2006, and associate professor at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development from 2007 to 2009. He was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in 2009, where he remained until 2013. From January 2013 to April 2017, Wilson served as the eleventh president of Morehouse College. He moved to Harvard University as a president in residence at the School of Education, where he began research for a book about the future of American higher education, with an emphasis on HBCUs. In April 2018, Wilson was appointed as senior advisor and strategist to the president of Harvard University.

Wilson has served on multiple boards, including Spelman College and Harvard University. He has received various awards for his work in higher education, including the 1998 Bennie Leadership Award presented by Morehouse College, Ebony magazine’s Power 100 Award in 2014, and the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 100 Most Influential Atlantans Award in 2015.

Wilson and his wife, Carol Espy-Wilson, have three adult children: twin daughters, Ayana and Ashia, and son, John Silvanus Wilson, III.

John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 27, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.096

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/27/2019

Last Name

Wilson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Silvanus

Schools

Morehouse College

Harvard Divinity School

Harvard Graduate School of Education

First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

WIL93

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard

Favorite Quote

Perspective Is Worth A Hundred Points of IQ and Signal To Noise Ratio Is Everything

Bio Photo
Birth Date

8/16/1957

Birth Place Term
Favorite Food

Mushroom Risotto

Short Description

College president and academic administrator John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. (1957- ) was an academic administrator for twenty eight years before becoming the eleventh president of Morehouse College.

Employment

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The George Washington University

White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Morehouse College

Harvard University School of Education

Harvard University

Kellogg National Fellowship Program

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Program

Educational Testing Service

Rockefeller Foundation

Favorite Color

Black