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The First African American Graduates of the University of Texas School of Law

Albertine Bowie, '56

Albertine Bowie, 1956 Peregrinus
Albertine Bowie,
1956 Peregrinus

Albertine Bowie (May 20, 1932 – March 25, 2020) was a native of Houston, Texas.  After completing secondary school in Houston, Ms. Bowie attended the Alice Freeman Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia, North Carolina, a school founded by Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown to prepare African American students to gain admittance into college.

Ms. Bowie then attended Vermont Junior College in Montpellier, before going on to attend Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History in 1953.  Ms. Bowie then returned to Texas to attend the University of Texas School of Law, graduating with a law degree in 1956.  Some of her experiences at the University of Texas were written about in Dwonna Goldstone’s 2006 book: Integrating the 40 acres – The 50-Year Struggle for Racial Equality at the University of Texas. 

Ms. Bowie moved to Chicago, passed the Chicago Bar examination, and for the next three years, worked as an Assistant Attorney General under the 32nd Governor of the State of Illinois, William G. Stratton.  In this capacity, she was responsible for the preparation of policies and procedures on human services, and the interpretation of same.  During this time, she also served as a trial attorney with the Attorney General’s department.  Her work and her membership of the Republican Party earned her a place on Richard M. Nixon’s presidential campaign team in Chicago for his 1960 presidential bid.

From 1960 to 1962, Ms. Bowie was an editor for the Commerce Clearing House, Inc. in Chicago.  As an attorney and reporter on income tax decisions, Ms. Bowie was also responsible for analyzing and preparing summaries relating to U.S court decisions on income tax questions for inclusion in the monthly periodicals published by Commerce Clearing House Inc.

From 1962 to1963, Ms. Bowie worked at Simms and Rogers, a private law practice in Chicago.  In 1963, she was appointed special assistant to the Vice Chairman of the women’s division at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington D.C.  She was responsible for minority women’s activities at the national level, developing and organizing programs, platforms, and raising issues relative to ethnic minority women’s groups in the United States and its territories.  Dr. Leah Wright Rigueur mentioned Ms. Bowie in her 2015 book The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power.  Ms. Bowie left the position in 1964 shortly before marrying Yaw B. Turkson, Minister Counsellor (Deputy Chief of Mission) of the Embassy of Ghana in Washington, D.C. on September 26, 1964. 

In 1965, her husband was appointed one of the first ten Ambassadors of Ghana, and Mrs. Turkson accompanied him on his accreditations to Brazil, Argentina, Ghana, Ethiopia, France, Spain, Portugal and the Holy See.  In the mid-1980s, she returned to Houston for a few years to attend to her elderly widowed mother.  Having taken the Texas Bar Examination, she worked as a lawyer in the City of Houston’s legal department, before joining Houston law firm Mayer, Brown & Platt where she conducted legal research in commercial and civil litigation.  While living in Oxford, U.K. she taught courses on the American Legal System and Constitutional Law at Warnborough College.

In 1990, Mrs. Turkson was one of 23 individuals appointed to the position of President George W. Bush’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  The Board was tasked with finding ways and means of supporting and strengthening HBCUs.  During that time, the Board was instrumental in securing an increase of $118 million dollars in federal funds, serving to increase the number of African American scientists, engineers, and other professionals in the growing fields of environmental restoration and waste management.