“I’m not a person who says we should be colorblind. We should celebrate people for who they are. Black History Month is an opportunity for non-Black Americans to learn about some of the great history that is all of our history,” says Timothy Overton (‘07). “There are countless heroic stories about Black Americans that most people have never heard about. I’m excited that we get to learn more about them.”
Overton is an attorney licensed in Arizona and Utah, who specializes in complex commercial litigation and diversity and inclusion training. He is a member of the Phoenix area office of Dickinson Wright PLLC, a general practice law firm headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, and is a governor-appointed commissioner on the Arizona Commission of African American Affairs. The Commission brings together African-American leaders and communities throughout the state of Arizona to voice the physical, emotional and spiritual realities facing Arizonans of African descent.
Raised in southern California, Overton earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Humboldt State prior to attending BYU Law. Both his grandfather and father were Baptist preachers. “My father graduated from college in Oklahoma in 1968,” Overton says. “He wanted to be a lawyer but chose teaching instead. He was one of two Black teachers I had in school. He showed me that you could be successful as a Black person in fields beyond music or sports.”
After being introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during college, Overton was baptized and served a mission in the Dakotas. When his mission president, a former professor at BYU, learned that Overton was planning to attend law school, he encouraged him to apply to BYU Law. Overton was accepted to the class of 2004. “I loved BYU Law. My class was diverse, and we had an amazing experience together. We did a lot of things to bond and to make BYU Law an amazing place.” Overton says another highlight of law school was the opportunity he had to be instructed by faculty members both in and out of the classroom. “I had a great relationship with Professor David Thomas who mentored me in so many things. Marguerite Driessen was on the faculty at the law school at that time and having her there as a Black professor was a big deal to me. It was an enriching community.”
Overton, who sits on the advisory board for BYU Law, envisions a future with even greater diversity at the Law School. “Dean Gordon Smith is concerned about diversity. He has skin in the game. With the Church’s influence around the world and so many international members of the Church, we should lead out. BYU can be the most diverse university there is, to show that we are all children of God, that we are equals. Come be a part of that, make us stronger, and by doing so make the world stronger.”