Vel phillipsA new statue honoring Vel Phillips, a pioneering figure in Wisconsin’s legal and political history, will be unveiled at the Wisconsin State Capitol on July 27, 2024, at 5 p.m. This monument marks a significant milestone as the first commemoration of a Black leader on the Capitol grounds.

Vel Phillips, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1951, achieved many firsts in her career:

  • First Black woman to graduate from UW Law School
  • First woman and first Black member of the Milwaukee Common Council
  • First Black woman to become a judge in Wisconsin
  • First Black woman elected to statewide office as Wisconsin’s Secretary of State

Vel Phillips StatueThe statue by sculptor Chris Hanrahan will be located on the South Hamilton corner of the Capitol grounds. An inscription will include Phillips’ name, dates of birth and death, several of her major accomplishments, and a quote: “What have you done, today, that’s good?”

This project, initiated by the Vel Phillips Task Force in 2020, raised over $500,000 through the Vel Phillips Legacy Initiative. The statue’s installation coincides with what would have been Phillips’ 100th birthday year.

Vel Phillips was a true treasure and Wisconsin icon who became the first of many before her, inspiring generations and defining the trajectory of our stateIt is so important to me and to the countless Wisconsinites for whom she paved the way that she receives permanent recognition at the Wisconsin State Capitol,” said Governor Tony Evers.

The unveiling ceremony is open to the public. It serves as an opportunity to recognize Phillips’ contributions to civil rights and her lasting impact on Wisconsin’s legal and political landscape.

For more about Vel Phillips’ legacy and the statue in her honor, see the press release by Governor Evers as well as news articles from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Madison 365.