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Birmingham Bar Association Spring 2014

appears to have been quite progressive for his time and filled some very big shoes in the formation of our Association. In addition to being a founder of the Bar, he was a longtime opponent of the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, he led the anti-Klan group at the 1924 Democratic National Convention. When the Klan organized a parade in Birmingham, he described it as an effort “to intimidate me, the Alabama delegation and the Democratic Party....It will not succeed....I maintain that the organization is a national menace....It is either the Ku Klux Klan or the United States of America. Both cannot survive. Between the two, I choose my country.” I find it encouraging that this is the type of person who was at the helm of our Association in its formative years. I am not so naive as to think that the existence of such a progressive early bar leader like Mr. Underwood meant that membership and governance were open to both genders and to all races at that time; however, it is significant that we were founded by such a thinker, and his shoes have left significant footprints for our Bar. The Birmingham Bar is fortunate to have many people who have left large footprints not only at the local bar level, but nationally, as well. Our own Tommy Wells, former President of the American Bar Association, launched an initiative to assess the “State of Diversity in the Legal Profession” in 2009. The ABA conducted a survey and held summits to examine this important topic, resulting in a report and recommendations to the bar, judiciary, government, law schools and law firms. The report stated that: “Building a more diverse legal profession is not a quick-fix, short-term goal. It is an ongoing campaign, one in which the ABA has been engaged for decades. We are committed to continue it as long as it takes. We are committed to see a bench that reflects our population and a profession in which every lawyer has the opportunity to achieve all of which they are capable.” While the report charted many disappointments along the way, it noted that: “Encouragingly, the findings also reveal some paths that are charting new directions for the profession’s diverse journey.” I am hopeful that my feet may follow this path and assist in some measure to help our Bar continue to improve and better understand the value of diversity. The ABA report compellingly described its importance: “The legal profession has historically held a unique cultural position in American society, not only administering but reflecting ideals of fairness and justice. Also, the profession has historically provided access to income and wealth commensurate with the ‘American Dream.’ Historically, racial and ethnic groups, women, and other marginalized groups have recognized that a law degree accelerates their social and economic mobility. If any part of our profession—especially the vast and powerful fields of private practice—fails to be diverse and inclusive, we are sending meaningful symbolic messages to members of underrepresented groups, especially those of lower socioeconomic status.” Such a failure would divert from the path that Mr. Underwood charted so many years ago. More than one hundred years after Mr. Underwood became one of this Bar’s founders, the Women Lawyers Section of the Birmingham Bar was created in 1994. I was privileged to serve as a founding member and the first Chair of that Section, and now take delight in the honor of serving as the Birmingham Bar President during the twentieth anniversary of a Section that is near and dear to me. The Women Lawyers Section is planning some wonderful events to commemorate its founding, and I hope that all of you will participate. As I embark on this exciting year, I reflect on many of the changes in the profession over the years and look forward to the exciting future that awaits us. Fifty years ago, Arthur Shores’ house was bombed more than once. Nina Miglionico found bombs on her front porch before they had an opportunity to detonate, and crosses were burned in her yard. Yet Birmingham Bar Bulletin/ Spring 2014 9


Birmingham Bar Association Spring 2014
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