Centennial History Book
A book on the history of the North Carolina Bar Association has uncovered information that not even the most senior members and staff knew.
Soon thereafter, a Centennial History Book Committee, chaired by Chapel Hill attorney Walter Bennett, commissioned Dr. Ed Hendricks, chair of the Wake Forest University Department of History, to research and write a history of the association. Hendricks had previously written a history of the Wake Forest School of Law.
The committee helped provide focus, research, photographs and memories. In addition, the members helped write parts of the book. The project expanded into a history of the entire profession in North Carolina from Colonial days. As a result, the distribution date coinciding with the annual meeting last June was changed to the October Centennial Symposium.
Also, Lynn P. Roundtree was brought on to provide additional historical context to the narrative. The final product was titled Seeking Liberty and Justice: A History of the North Carolina Bar Association, 1899-1999. The Centennial Symposium was postponed due to Hurricane Floyd therefore disrupting plans to distribute the book, which instead was presented during the October board meeting in Pinehurst.
Many volunteer lawyers and other professionals, including the staff of the N.C. Bar Association, contributed greatly to the book and are listed in the acknowledgments. The project would not have been possible, however, without the financial support of LEXIS Publishing, which coordinated the production of the book.
Excerpts from each chapter of the history book follow:
Chapter 1: Law and Legal Education in North Carolina's Early Days
From the earliest days of the colony, a young man interested in the law could read the law by himself or under the guidance of another lawyer. In the minds of many, however, the most prestigious legal education to be had was at one of the English Inns of Court. These voluntary associations of law students operated along the lines of medieval trade guilds, making their own rules and, with the approval of the judges, conferring the right to practice in the courts.
In the Inns, one was not only introduced to the complexities of the common law which governed legal practice in England and in English America, but also to the professional collegiality which was one of the predominant characteristics of the legal profession in England and America.
Chapter 2: Law and Society in North Carolina, 1865-1899
This was ... a time of increased opportunities for African-Americans in North Carolina. In 1871, James Edward O'Hara, a Republican activist and Howard University law graduate, became the first black man licensed to practice law in the state. He was the first of a small but steady number of African-Americans, mostly associated with the Republican Party, to establish a practice in North Carolina cities and towns.
... Likewise, the decade witnessed the opening of a window of opportunity for women lawyers in the state. Although women's suffrage movements were growing across the nation, the state Democratic Party remained an exclusively white male organization, as did the Republicans. Despite this climate, and against the strong opposition of many attorneys, in 1878, Tabitha Anne Holton of Guilford County became the first woman licensed to practice law in the state. North Carolina became the sixth state - and the first Southern state - to grant a woman a law license.
Chapter 3: Call and Response: The First Year of the North Carolina Bar Association (1899)
... The new North Carolina Bar Association secured the membership of a (high) percentage of the state's attorneys and of nearly all the leading lawyers from across the state. Fifteen of the charter members went on to serve the association as president. Four of the first group of members later served on the state Supreme Court: Henry Groves Connor, Walter Clark, Heriot Clarkson and Platt D. Walker. It is also notable that all seven governors who served North Carolina between 1901 and 1929 were original members of the N.C. Bar Association: Charles B. Aycock, Robert B. Glenn, William W. Kitchin, Locke Craig, Thomas W. Bickett, Cameron Morrison and Angus W. McLean.
Chapter 4: "A Firm and Enduring Foundation," 1899-1906
Members of the N.C. Bar Association included many of the state's civic and political leaders; the Charlotte Daily Observer went so far as to call the profession the "ablest in the state." The organization, according to a News and Observer prophecy, was "destined not only to live, but to flourish like a green bay tree."
By 1905, the association had expanded to 421 members (including honorary members). Attorneys who attended the meetings found fellowship and social opportunities, heard learned addresses and discussed serious matters of professionalism, public policy, and legislative and judicial reform.
Chapter 5: "Taking Flight," 1906-1921
Reform and progress were the watchwords of the age, and the end of the war had brought a new sense of possibility to the lives of many North Carolinians. The state was a significantly different place from what it had been just 20 years earlier. In 1900, North Carolina counted only 10,932 telephones in the state but by 1920 that number had ballooned to 123,000.
In 1910, there were only 2,400 motor vehicles in the state but by 1921 that number had skyrocketed to 150,000. North Carolina was no longer an isolated, rural state. Her laws - and her lawyers - would have to respond to these new conditions.
Chapter 6: "Currents and Crosscurrents," 1922-1931
In many ways, the work of the legal profession in North Carolina was changing and the N.C. Bar Association was regularly involved in that process. Calls for increasing the requirements for admission to the bar came in part because the difficulties in practicing law were increasing.
In 1928, North Carolina adopted its first Workmen's Compensation Act, joining the majority of the other states in the country who already had legislation requiring employers to carry insurance for workers injured on the job. ...
The association ... created a committee to work with the Industrial Commission to set the fees which attorneys would charge clients for representing them in workmen's compensation cases. Well before the New Deal and even before the Great Depression, association members were dealing with regulatory laws and their own role in helping them work properly.
Chapter 7: "Depression and Regression," 1932-1940
At the annual meeting in Asheville on July 15, 1932, the North Carolina Bar Association's Special Committee on Incorporating the Bar proposed a statute for consideration by the membership. ... As proposed, the bill was titled, "An Act to Provide for the Organization as an Agency of the State of North Carolina of the North Carolina State Bar, and for its Regulation, Powers and Government, Including the Admission of Lawyers to Practice and Their Discipline and Disbarment."
Members discussed the proposed legislation at great length. ... Many resisted the idea of turning over the governance of the profession to a state board that would consist primarily of attorneys. Others feared that once attorneys were given authority to set requirements for acquiring a license to practice law, they would set unreasonably high standards as a means of reducing competition within the profession. ... Many feared that the birth of a state bar would mean the death of the voluntary N.C. Bar Association. ...
The vote on the proposal was close. On the final motion to adopt the bill and authorize its presentation to the General Assembly, the proposal was carried by a vote of 46 to 30. ...
On April 3, 1933, Chapter 210 of the Public Laws of 1933, incorporating the North Carolina State Bar, would be ratified - a great milestone in the history of the legal profession in North Carolina and in the history of the N.C. Bar Association.
Chapter 8: "In the Arsenal of Democracy," 1940-1945
Even the music which preceded the (annual meeting) sessions reflected a wartime flavor. To begin the Friday evening session, the audience joined in singing "God Bless America," then "Give Me that Old Time Religion" before concluding with "The Star-Spangled Banner." It was a time of unabashed patriotism in North Carolina, and the state's lawyers were right in tune, from the governor on down.
School children wrote patriotic poems; radio stations played patriotic songs; churches sang patriotic hymns and observed special days of prayer. Gov. Broughton later asked every North Carolinian for their "earnest prayers" in the days prior to the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944, and decreed D-Day to be a special "Dedication Day" in North Carolina.
Chapter 9: "Forging Ahead," 1945-1955
The 50th annual meeting of the N.C. Bar Association was held on board the SS Evangeline en route to Bermuda in June 1948. Actual sessions were held on the high seas so that the members and their families could have a full day of leisure in the capital city of Hamilton. Attendance was limited but the vision of the members present was broad.
Recognizing that judges in North Carolina were underpaid, a resolution was passed urging that Supreme Court justices be paid $15,000 and Superior Court judges $10,000 per year. An insurance program for members was introduced for consideration, a special section for the junior bar was created and much time was devoted to debate over a uniform state code of laws. Richard E. Thigpen, who had initiated the early continuing legal education "institutes," was elected president of the association.
Chapter 10: "Soaring Higher," 1955-1974
One of the most far-reaching projects ever undertaken by the N.C. Bar Association was a comprehensive study of the state judicial system, which led to a thorough revision of the state court system and the administration of justice in North Carolina. In July 1955, Gov. Luther H. Hodges expressed his conviction that the courts of North Carolina "no longer held the high place in the minds of our citizens that they once held," and he urged the N.C. Bar Association to do something about it.
The association promptly established the Committee on Improving and Expediting the Administration of Justice. J. Spencer Bell accepted the chairmanship of the committee, after consulting with Judge John J. Parker about its mission and work. Bell became so associated in the minds of the public with (the committee and its successors) that the committee became generally known as "the Bell Commission."
Chapter 11: "In Full Stride," 1974-1999
During this period, energy ... shifted to the expansion of member services. The N.C. Bar Association, through its N.C. Bar Foundation, quietly but quickly moved from four continuing legal education programs in 1975 to more than 40 live programs in 1985. Having utilized video as a CLE distribution technique since 1969, the association, in 1983, was the first CLE provider in North Carolina to utilize a teleconferencing network, and, in 1984, joined two national networks by satellite for the distribution of CLE.
In March 1988, a national attendance record of more than 2,800 North Carolina lawyers attending one program at the same time in 26 different sites was set via a new Community College Satellite Network. ...
A membership survey conducted in the 1980s ranked the publication BarNotes as the second most valued membership service behind only CLE. Since its inception in 1953, BarNotes has changed its size, shape, scope, frequency and finally its name to North Carolina Lawyer. The publication, which won more than 20 national and regional awards in the 1990s, is distributed as a membership service seven times a year. ...
Responding to the efforts of lawyers to specialize, it was not a surprise in 1979 when the NCBA Board of Governors authorized the creation of the association's first "section." ... Bankruptcy lawyers had for years been considering the need for specialized services, and after contemplating their own separate organization, chose to petition the association for a new status. Thus, sections were born. ... It soon became clear that section members were willing to pay more (section dues) for additional services (workshops, newsletters and lobbying staff support). ... Sections in Real Property, Estate Planning, Tax and Business Law quickly followed. Additional staff was hired, and by 1999 more than 25 sections met the specialized needs of North Carolina practitioners.
Seeking Liberty and Justice: A History of the North Carolina Bar Association, 1899-1999 also includes an epilogue and a prologue, an extensive appendix, a foreword by William Friday and an introduction by John L. Jernigan. In addition, more than 300 color and black-and-white photos help tell the story of the legal profession in North Carolina.
In addition, there are personality profile articles featuring J. Spencer Bell, J. Crawford Biggs, Julius L. Chambers, Walter Clark, Thomas Walker Davis, Allan B. Head, John J. Parker, Susie M. Sharp, Herbert H. Taylor, Platt D. Walker and Carroll Wayland Weathers.
Also, there are sidebar articles on the topics of African-Americans in the Profession, Leadership, Legal Services, Professionalism and Women in the Profession.
A total of 3,000 copies of the history book were printed.