Clarence Muse (1889-1979), an actor, writer, director, composer, and lawyer, was the first African American to matriculate at the Law School. He attended Dickinson Law in 1908, and after one year left to become involved in theater and show business. Citing the lack of opportunities for African Americans in the legal field, Muse never pursued a career as a lawyer. Some of his acting career highlights include Hearts in Dixie (1929), Broken Strings (1939), Way Down South (1939), The Invisible Ghost (1941), Car Wash (1976), and The Black Stallion (1979). He is credited for appearing in 220 motion pictures in a career that lasted over 60 years.
Although better known as an actor, Muse was also one of the founders of both a black film company and theater troupe, composed plays and musicals, and directed Broadway shows. He co-composed “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South”, which became Louis Armstrong’s theme song. In 1973, he was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. Muse returned to the law school to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1978. Throughout his lifetime, Clarence Muse was an inspiring performer who was a crucial force in the movement toward equality for African Americans in the performing arts. Please visit the Law Library to see the Clarence Muse framed photos on display.