Keller Rohrback Celebrates Black History Month

February 27, 2020

Keller Rohrback Celebrates Black History Month


In celebration of Black History Month, Keller Rohrback highlighted some of the many black attorneys
whose achievements have pushed our country forward. Read on for information on five such attorneys.


1. Thurgood Marshall (1908 - 1993)

Thurgood Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court Justice and founder of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

In his role as executive director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Marshall successfully argued several cases before the Supreme Court, most notably Shelley v Kraemer, in which the Court held that racially restrictive housing covenants are prohibited from being enforced due to the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and Brown v Board of Education, which held that racial segregation in public education violates the same Clause.

Learn more about Justice Thurgood Marshall.


2. Charlotte E. Ray (1850 - 1911)

Charlotte E. Ray was the first black female lawyer in the United States and the first woman admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia.

Initially trained as a teacher, Ray studied law at Howard University and received her degree in 1872—a time when women were largely prohibited from being lawyers and a mere seven years after the end of the Civil War. Ray was known for her courage, not only in her pursuit of the legal profession, but in the types of matters she took on as well.

Read more about Charlotte E. Ray here. 


3. Donald L. Hollowell (1917 - 2004)

Donald L. Hollowell was a prevalent civil rights attorney during the civil rights movement who was well known for fighting racial segregation in the state of Georgia.

Not only did he free Martin Luther King Jr. from prison, but he also successfully sued to integrate Atlanta’s public schools, along with Georgia's colleges, universities, and public transit. Hollowell was also the first black regional director of a federal agency (the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

Before becoming an attorney, Hollowell served six years in the U.S Army’s 10th Cavalry Regiment (the original Buffalo Soldier regiment). The racial injustice and discrimination he faced while serving in World War ll inspired him to pursue the study of law in order to help fight social injustice. In 1947, he graduated magna cum laude from Lane College and and in 1951, he earned his law degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Read more about Donald L. Hollowell.


4. Barbara Jordan (1936 - 1996)

Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Barbara Jordan graduated from Boston University Law School and then returned to Texas to set up her own law practice. Jordan won a seat in the Texas Legislature in 1966, becoming the first Southern black woman to do so. In 1972, amidst the Watergate scandal, Barbara was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she called for the impeachment of President Nixon. 

In 1976, Barbara Jordan became the first woman and first African-American to give a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. She told the crowd, "My presence here . . . is one additional bit of evidence that the American dream need not forever be deferred." Jordan finished her final term in 1979, announcing that she wouldn’t return for reelection. It was eventually revealed that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis around this time.

In her later years, Jordan focused on educational work, but she never fully stepped away from politics. She delivered another speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1992 and was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Commission on Immigration Reform in 1994, just two years before passing away from pneumonia, a complication of her battle with leukemia.​​​​​​​

Learn more about Barbara and her work here


5. Wiley W. Manuel (1927 - 1981)

Wiley Manuel was the first African American to serve on the high courts and was an associate justice of the California Supreme Court from 1977-1981. During his unfortunately short tenure, he wrote 88 opinions.

Justice Manuel died of cancer in 1981 at the young age of 53. In his honor, the Sacramento Association of Black Attorneys changed its name to the Wiley Manuel Bar Association of Sacramento County and the Alameda County Courthouse changed its name to the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse. In addition, the State Bar of California established the Wiley Manuel Certificate to recognize pro bono work for low-income clients. Justice Manuel’s alma mater, University of California Hastings College of the Law, also established the Justice Wiley W. Manuel Scholarship, which is awarded to a second-year student demonstrating financial need, academic achievement, and community involvement.

Find out more about Wiley W. Manuel.