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How Billy Martin ‘76 Led 3L Kelvin Morris to the College of Law

In a matter of weeks, Kelvin Morris ’12 will return home to his native Virginia. He grew up in Virginia, earned his undergraduate degree in Virginia and worked for about four years in Virginia.

While he has spent the last three years in Greater Cincinnati, living across the river while attending the College of Law, Morris will return to the Old Dominion state this summer with a J.D. Morris will become the first in his family to graduate from law school, just seven years after becoming the first male in his family to earn a college degree.

“Since I was a kid, my father always told me that I could do anything I set my mind to. I believed him.” said Morris, the second of three boys in his family. “As I reflect on this, I’m astonished because no one around me had a college degree.”

Morris calls his father, Terry Morris, Sr., his biggest supporter, noting he never missed a game or a school event when he was younger. In addition to his father, a number of other people have helped push Morris to where he is today, including United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, attorney Johnnie Cochran, law professor Charles Ogletree and President Barack Obama.

“Professional black male role models didn’t really exist in my community,” the Lynchburg, Va. native said. “So often times I would look to the media.  I looked to these figures for inspiration because they were lacking in my community.”

Another man who caught Morris’ attention in recent years was Billy Martin, a well-known Washington, D.C. based trial attorney who graduated from the College of Law in 1976.

As Morris watched the 2007 coverage of the illegal dog fighting ring co-operated by NFL superstar quarterback Michael Vick, he became curious about the man he saw on TV representing him. So Morris looked Martin up and read a lot about him.

“He started as a prosecutor, then he went into various law firms and moved his way up. Now he represents entertainers, athletes, and corporations – basically showing me that, hey, if I put in the hard work, then things can happen for me too,” Morris said.

As it became clear that Morris was going to pursue a law degree, he noted where Martin attended law school and started researching the College of Law. After graduating from Radford University, which has less than 9,000 students, Morris was intrigued by the idea of attending a larger university, but he also wanted a small law school.

“I felt like UC was a perfect fit for that,” he said.                              

In his three years at the College of Law, school work has kept Morris quite busy. His areas of interest include contracts/sales and family law, and he specifically cited Family Law as his favorite class and also the most practical in terms of his background and some of his career goals.

After clerking for Judge Fanon Rucker ’96 at the Hamilton County Municipal Court and teaching at the Law and Leadership Institute (LLI) two summers ago, Morris served as the Black Law Students Association president and was a member of the Freedom Center Journal during his 2L year. That year he also continued his involvement with LLI and began work with solo practitioner Wende Cross.

In his 3L year, Morris has been involved with the Sixth Circuit Clinic, LLI, and externed this semester with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy.

In addition to hanging out with law school friends and working out at the gym a few times a week, Morris has been volunteering in a support role with UC’s department of athletics.

“I’m trying to learn more about the athletic department because I see myself one day as being an athletic director or a GM for an NBA or NFL team” said Morris, who has enjoyed attending Bearcat basketball and football games the last three years.

While Morris has aspirations to work in college or professional athletics, he also hopes to make a positive impact on the lives of others, just like some of his role models.

“[I want] to make a difference in the world by encouraging others and helping those who want more out of life but who don’t have access to professionals,” he said.

This certainly aligns with the type of work Morris did prior to attending the College of Law. For nine months, after his graduation from Radford, Morris worked in his hometown at the Opportunity House, a home for troubled teens who came from difficult environments.

Morris then moved to Manassas in Northern Virginia, where he spent 13 months as a juvenile probation officer. Finally, he was a domestic relations probation officer in neighboring Fairfax, primarily dealing with domestic batterers.

After four years as a youth counselor and probation officer, Morris knew he wanted to attend law school. His intentions were initially to practice criminal law, but he is now open to other areas of practice including business law and family law.

Flash forward a few years, where Morris is nearing the completion of his degree. Upon graduation, he plans to return to his home state, study for the Virginia bar exam and build off some of the relationships he has built through the years.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13