Rocky McElhaney Law Firm Honors Tennessee’s Legal Movers and Shakers for Black History Month
Every February, Black History Month honors people who have blazed a trail and helped make America a better and brighter place.
This year’s Black History Month theme, per History.com, is “African Americans and the Vote,” in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Fifteen Amendment, which gave Black men the right to vote, and 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. In keeping with this theme, the American Bar Association has issued “Black History Month: Honoring Trailblazers in the Legal Profession.” They honor Macon Bolling Allen, the first licensed African American attorney to practice law in the U.S.; Jane Bolin, the first female African American judge in the U.S.; Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice; and many other men and women who were and are legal trailblazers.
We wanted to keep our honorees a little closer to home, and learn more about the legal trailblazers here in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Alliance for Black Lawyers, and the National Bar Association
The National Bar Association “was founded in 1925 and is the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African American attorneys and judges. It represents the interests of approximately 65,000 lawyers, judges, law professors and law students.” The Tennessee Alliance for Black Lawyers (TABL) is a registered affiliate chapter: “a delegation of African American attorneys representing all areas of the state of Tennessee.” The founders of TABL include:
- William H. Hastie, from Knoxville. Mr. Hastie was a lawyer, a judge, a teacher, and an advocate, and the first Black man to serve as Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Z. Alexander Looby, from Nashville. Mr. Looby was an attorney and a professor, and one of the attorneys who filed Kelley v. Board of Education of Nashville. *He went on to found Kent College of Law in Nashville.
- Ben F. Jones, from Memphis. Mr. Jones was an attorney and one of the five founders of the “Memphis Chapter of the National Bar Association—the oldest and largest alliance of African American attorneys in the world.”
- Styles Hutchins, from Chattanooga. Mr. Styles was the first African American ever admitted to the Georgia Bar and the first to try a case before a judge in that state. He was also a legislator in Hamilton County.
- James Carroll Napier, from Nashville. Mr. Napier “was appointed the Register of the Treasury under President William Howard, the highest governmental position then available to African Americans.” He helped found Tennessee State University as well as a bank, served on the Nashville City Council, and was the President of Washington’s National Negro Business League, after Booker. T. Washington.
*Mr. Looby co-filed that lawsuit along with Knoxville native Avon Nyanza Williams, Jr., an attorney and the first African American State Senator ever elected in Tennessee. Mr. Williams was cousin to Justice Thurgood Marshall.
African American legal leaders in Tennessee history
There are still men and women blazing trails in the legal profession in Tennessee, of course, but we want to pay tribute to those who made it possible:
- Horatio Nelson Rankin, the first African American admitted to the Bar in Tennessee
- Fredrick McGhee, founder of the Niagara Movement, which would eventually evolve into the NAACP
- George H. Brown, the first African American appointed Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court
- Lutie Lytle, the first African American woman admitted to practice law in Tennessee
- Adolpho A. Birch Jr., the first African American Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court
- Odell Horton, the first African American male to serve as the Assistant U.S. Attorney for Tennessee
Men and women of color have helped America move toward a better, more perfect union. The work of these lawyers, judges, and activists opened doors, and we are proud to honor them. We hope you will join us in our reverence and our celebration of their game-changing contributions to justice!
About the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm
Getting justice. Doing things right. Protecting vulnerable people. Giving injury victims a fair shake. Helping folks live better lives. This is the work of a lawyer who fights for the people.
Inspired by the work of history-making lawyers like those above, Rocky McElhaney set his sights on becoming the kind of attorney who stood up to the big, greedy bullies of the insurance industry to help even the playing field for real folks suffering from life-altering injuries. He built a law firm of sharp, experienced, straight-forward, and compassionate gladiators in suits who treat their clients like family but never back down from the opponent.
Nearly 20 years later, RML has become Nashville’s premier personal injury law firm standing tall as a beacon of hope to folks who need someone in their corner to help guide them through difficult times.
The Rocky McElhaney Law Firm specializes in representing victims of auto, bus, truck and motorcycle accidents and handles workers’ compensation, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury, birth injury, premises liability, school bullying injury, and workplace discrimination cases.
You can trust our dedicated attorneys to put your best interests first and fight for the maximum recovery for you and your family. To learn more about our services, or to schedule a free consultation at one of our offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Knoxville, please call 615-239-5331, or fill out our contact form.