Lawyer Group Names First Black President - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

08/09/03

Lawyer Group Names First Black President

An organization that once worked to keep black members out will finally have it's first African American leader. Dennis Archer will be made president of the American Bar Association on Monday. The former Detroit mayor is the first African American to hold that office in the A.B.A.'s 125 year history.

Long time attorney Melvin Cooper shared his thoughts on the past, present and future of Blacks in the legal profession. His own desire to study law was born in the injustice he witnessed in the Hinds County courthouse.

"When I was very young my grandmother who reared me used to take to me to court," he said. "During those days, Afro Americans had to sit at the top and Caucasians sit at the bottom."

When the Jackson native enrolled in law school in 1971, only three Black lawyers practiced in his hometown. Now he says there are too many to count.

"Afro Americans are certainly entering the law profession. It's just a matter of whether we're going have enough work for all of them to do when they graduate."

Cooper says today's graduates are handling everything from criminal law to tort reform but choosing to bypass what originally drove many Blacks to enter the law profession.

"You probably couldn't find a civil rights African American lawyer in the state of Mississippi including me simply because of economic advantages today."

Cooper is happy to say African American attorneys have made great strides over the years including Dennis Archer who's the future president of the American Bar Association.

"Its a great day. I'm so happy to see the American Bar Association membership practice the concept on inclusion as opposed to exclusion of minorities in its highest office."

by Danielle Thomas

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