Page 8

Birmingham Bar Association

President’s Message Leila H. Watson from the President were the most important lawyer stories I heard all year. In 1963, Birmingham was the national focus of the fight for civil rights. In May, the Children’s Crusade took place and thousands of black high school students marched from their churches into downtown and were stopped upon orders of Chief Bull Connor, enforced by the use of fire hoses and police dogs. The photographs of this horrific clash were displayed around the world and pushed the reality of the injustices against black Americans into the public eye. The final hateful act was the church bombing. As a direct result of these cruel events in 1963 in Birmingham, the Civil Rights Act was brought out of the mothballs and put before Congress and passed in 1964. The Voting Rights Act followed the next year. In 2013, the Birmingham Bar Foundation authored a documentary called “Preserving Justice” that included this history and was dedicated to honoring those lawyers and judges in Birmingham who worked 50 years earlier to achieve civil rights for all. In the documentary, Bill Baxley spoke of the profound effect that the church bombing had upon him personally. He was elected Alabama’s Attorney General in 1970. In 1971 he reopened the case against the church bombers, obtaining the first conviction in 1977. At the time of his election, Alabama was still very segregated and discriminated against black citizens, despite passage of the Civil Rights Act. The Diversity and Inclusivity Committee invited Bill Baxley to speak at the first Diversity Dialogue because history recorded that he recruited now Senior Judge Myron Thompson to be the first black Assistant Attorney General in Alabama. According to Bill, Mr. Thompson was more than that; he was the first African American employee of the state of Alabama who was not a janitor, cafeteria worker or teacher. Unknown to Mr. Thompson, Bill Baxley was also planning to integrate the state cafeteria. On Mr. Thompson’s first day at work, Bill casually asked him to get a cup of coffee with him in the cafeteria. Bill said he knew no one would stop the Alabama Attorney General from drinking coffee with anyone, regardless of the color of their skin. A couple years later, Bill recruited now Retired Circuit Judge Charles Price to come work as another Assistant Attorney General. Mr. Price became one of the best prosecutors in the AG’s office. When Escambia County’s district attorney had to take an extended leave from office, the County Commission asked Bill to send an interim district attorney, and specifically, the best lawyer the AG had; so Bill sent Mr. Price. A few days later, Bill got a call from the County Commission asking if he knew that the interim district attorney he had appointed was “colored,” and Bill said “of course, yes.” The Commissioners threatened Bill that if he did not remove Mr. Price and send a white attorney, he would never get another vote from Escambia County. Bill Thank you for electing me BBA president! I have had a great year, and I hope that I have given back as much as I have taken. When I needed your service, you gave it. When I asked for your participation, you came. When I asked for your input and insights, you spoke. You are the most thoughtful, ethical, giving and decent people I could have served, and I am honored to practice with you every day. You are leaders in the community. You stand and speak in public and persuade people without disparaging the opposition. You hold a special license that enables you to do what no one else can do, and you volunteer your time to provide access to justice to those that otherwise cannot afford it. Out of your league comes a fair and knowledgeable judiciary, of the highest character, to serve all citizens. You support and mentor each other and give forward. You make our profession a calling at a time when we have a brand problem. You have graced our community and profession with your work. Thank you for letting me stand among you. This is the point at which I should tell you all about what the BBA accomplished this year under my presidency. Instead, I want to tell you about the life accomplishments of some of our members. These 8 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association
To see the actual publication please follow the link above