The “Old” Black Corporate Bar: Durham’s Wall Street, 1898-1971

BY Amos N. Jones

troducing a fascinating law-practice reality that developed in a unique setting in the early 1900s American South. What if Wall Street had been black? What if its elite feeder institutions had been black? What if the black bar were, in a corporate economy of scale, relatively sizable? These questions might make for fascinating counterfactuals, if not for the concrete reality that such a community—albeit small—actually existed, expanded, and prospered in midcentury Durham, North Carolina. Coining the term “old black corporate bar” to stand in distinction to the “new black corporate bar,” the Article analyzes the world in which that exceptional and heretofore unexamined black bar germinated and influenced a relatively sophisticated legal landscape in a moderate, midsized southern city backdropped by a laissez-faire white leadership class that proved progressive for racial relations. Part I briefly sets forth the economic and social landscape during America’s Jim Crow era, identifying the three most prominent historical examples where observable black economies of scale rose and fell with the whims of white commercial insecurities. Part II presents the exceptional history of the African American community in Durham, North Carolina, including the founding of its “Black Wall Street.” Part III chronicles a watershed event in the histories of Durham and North Carolina: the establishment and rise of the North Carolina Central University School of Law, the first public institution to offer formal training for black lawyers in North Carolina. Part IV uncovers and analyzes the achievements of and challenges to the African American legal community in the “Black Wall Street” of Durham and discusses the establishment of African American lawyers’ professional associations nationally during this time. Part V, relying on historical examples of advocacy in the courts of North Carolina, establishes the old black corporate bar within the social-engineering frameworks envisioned by legendary legal theorist and litigator Charles Hamilton Houston and others. Finally, a brief conclusion places this study’s examination in the contemporary discourse on blacks in the legal profession, joining the subjects of this Article to the group of newly empowered so-called “social engineers” treated in the recent scholarship in this area.


The black corporate bar is commonly studied as a newly emergent phenomenon in American legal history.[1] As reported by Professor David Wilkins of Harvard—who is widely regarded as the foremost authority on the growth of the black corporate bar[2] —in 1960, the year before the world’s most famous black lawyer, President Barack Obama, was born, there were 2,180 black lawyers in the entire United States of America (fewer than two percent of all lawyers in a country approximately fourteen percent black)[3] —only 880 more than in 1930, the year that Thurgood Marshall, arguably the most famous black lawyer before Obama, graduated from historically black Howard University School of Law.[4] With a few notable exceptions, according to Wilkins, the black lawyers who would have greeted the future President’s birth were almost indistinguishable from those practicing when Marshall first hung out his shingle in Baltimore: “Most, like Marshall, were graduates of one of the nation’s [handful of] historically black law schools, most notably Howard.”[5] Moreover, Wilkins observes, “regardless of where they went to law school, nearly all of the nation’s mid-twentieth-century black lawyers practiced law in the same way that their predecessors in the black bar had practiced it since John Mercer Langston became the first black lawyer in the United States in 1843”: scraping together an income through representing black individuals and small black businesses, that is, if they were fortunate enough to be able to make a living practicing law at all.[6] There were virtually no black attorneys in large law firms, corporate legal departments, or other elite sectors of practice.[7] “Wall Street, like both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, remained the near exclusive domain of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant men of Means who had controlled every important avenue of legal, political, and economic power since the founding of the Republic,” Wilkins concludes.[8] To be sure: [T]his underrepresentation was the result of a deliberate and concerted effort by the profession’s elite in both the North and the South to restrict entry to white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant men of means. Blacks—regardless of their qualifications—were overtly discriminated against by educators and employers alike. The few blacks who managed to become lawyers during this period worked in solo practice or small minority firms, barely eking out a living serving an almost exclusively minority clientele. As late as 1964, Erwin Smigel reported in his study of Wall Street lawyers that “in the year and a half that was spent interviewing, I heard of only three Negroes who had been hired by large law firms. Two of these were women who did not meet the client.”[9] In light of the historically segregated state of the corporate bar in the early 1900s and a sluggish integration that gained traction only after the 1960s, a new body of exciting scholarship has arisen to treat the “new black corporate bar.”[10] But what about an old black corporate bar? What if Wall Street had been black? What if its elite feeder institutions had been black? What if the black bar were, in a corporate economy of scale, relatively sizable? These questions might make for fascinating counterfactuals, if not for the concrete reality that such a community—albeit small—actually existed, expanded, and prospered in midcentury Durham, North Carolina. This Article examines the world in which that exceptional and largely unnoticed black bar germinated and influenced a relatively sophisticated legal landscape in a moderate, medium-sized southern city, facilitated by a laissez-faire white leadership class in the middle of the twentieth century who stood in contradistinction to the general state policies designed to preclude black political and economic advancement. While blacks lagged far behind whites economically and socially during the era of Jim Crow segregation, a black middle class emerged in Durham as a self-sustaining, burgeoning community that expanded. As will be shown, the ethic of Durham’s black community by the mid-twentieth century had become nationally exemplified by the remarkable and extant economic achievements of the North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association and the Mechanics and Farmers Bank, among other black-owned businesses.[11] However, the professional-services community of black lawyers as they practiced on or around Durham’s “Black Wall Street” remains unexamined. Yet, the class heritage and workaday activities of this group offers a profound insight into the sociology of business lawyering in the segregated South. Durham’s lawyers on and around its “Black Wall Street” faced many of the same challenges that confronted all southern blacks at the time but also had to overcome barriers specific to the legal profession, such as exclusion from established bar associations, including the American Bar Association.[12] Ironically, institutionalized racial discrimination, indigence among the general public, and conflict coupled with ambition among Durham’s black elite served as a potent fertilizer for financial independence among the African American legal community in Durham. These lawyers served clients of means, won major victories, and significantly influenced the legal profession on the local, state, and national levels. This Article analyzes the experiences of African American corporate lawyers in the context of the thriving black middle and upper-middle classes in Durham during the early half of the twentieth century and contextualizes them according to the social factors that made such a black corporate bar possible. Part I generally sets forth the economic and social landscape during America’s Jim Crow era, identifying the three dramatic historical examples where observable black economies of scale rose and fell with the whims of massive white commercial insecurities. Part II presents the exceptional history of the black community in Durham, North Carolina, including the origins and growth of the “Black Wall Street.” Part III chronicles a watershed event in the history of Durham and of North Carolina: the establishment and rise of the North Carolina Central University School of Law, the first public institution to offer formal training for black lawyers in North Carolina. Part IV analyzes the achievements of and challenges to the African American legal community in the “Black Wall Street” of Durham and examines the establishment of African American lawyers and bar associations nationally during this time. Relying on historical examples of advocacy in the courts of North Carolina, Part V establishes the old black corporate bar within the social-engineering frameworks envisioned by legendary legal theorist Charles Hamilton Houston, a leading lawyer with the National Association for the Advance of Colored Persons (“NAACP”). Finally, a brief conclusion places this study’s findings in the contemporary discourse on blacks in the legal profession, joining the subjects of this Article to the group commonly referred to as the “new black corporate bar,” especially those recently empowered social engineers treated in David Wilkins’s latest work. I. POSTBELLUM BLACKS ON THE AMERICAN COMMERCIAL LANDSCAPE AND THE RISE AND FALL OF DURHAM’S EXCEPTIONAL CONTEMPORARIES According to sociologists Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro, throughout—and, to a far lesser extent, following—the pre-Civil Rights Movement decades of American History, “[r]acist state policy, Jim Crow segregation, discrimination, and violence [had] punctuated black entrepreneurial efforts of all kinds. Blacks [had] faced levels of hardship in their pursuit of self-employment that [had] never been experienced as fully by or applied as consistently to other ethnic groups, even other nonwhite ethnics.”[13] For example, in the Red Record, the legendary black journalist of her era, Ida B. Wells Barnett, chronicled how, in a traditional tactic of white terrorism deployed throughout black commercial sections in the South, blacks were lynched after they opened a general goods store across the street from a white store.[14] Nevertheless, “African Americans were able to succeed in competing on the open market, carving out economic niches by ‘do[ing] business within their own group.’ “[15] “They could penetrate as much of a market as their economic capacity and tolerance for risk could accommodate,” and “[t]hey thus carved comfortable economic niches and were able to succeed, albeit on a moderate scale.”[16] These moderate and comfortable niches materialized in many locales. In fact, according to Butler, “[b]etween 1867 and 1917 the number of [African] American enterprises increased from four thousand to fifty thousand.”[17] The most noteworthy examples of black corporate and commercial strides were in the three striking examples of the earlier so-called “Black Wall Streets” in other parts of the South, bastions that rose and fell while Durham’s seemed only to rise.[18] In Durham, the black business section, known as “Hayti,” went onward and upward.[19] W. E. B. Du Bois, in an article written in 1912, credited the stability of Durham’s black commercial success as much to the local whites, with their relatively progressive approach to racial relations, as he did to the blacks, who brought brains and drive to the equation.[20] Du Bois astutely studied and concluded of white Durham: But never forget that Durham is in the South and that around these 5,000 Negroes are twice as many whites who own most of the property, dominate the political life exclusively, and form the main current of social life. What now has been the attitude of these people toward the Negroes? In the case of a notable few it has been sincerely sympathetic and helpful, and in the case of a majority of the whites it has not been hostile. Of the two attitudes, great as has undoubtedly been the value of the active friendship of the Duke family, General Julian S. Carr, and others, I consider the greatest factor in Durham’s development to have been the disposition of the mass of ordinary white citizens of Durham to say: “Hands off—give them a chance—don’t interfere.”[21] II. EXCEPTIONAL DURHAM: THE SOLE SURVIVING “BLACK WALL STREET” In his perceptive 1912 article entitled The Upbuilding of Black Durham: The Success of the Negroes and Their Value to a Tolerant and Helpful Southern City, Du Bois mentioned every aspect of commercial intercourse except that of the legal industry.[22] Yet, a contemporary reader aware of the demand for legal services in any market economy can infer that the region under study must have been pregnant with opportunities to serve the legal needs of the Negro commerce class growing in central Durham. After all, as Du Bois wrote, black Durham was churning its commercial interrelations to remarkable effect: [T]here is a singular group in Durham where a black man may get up in the morning from a mattress made by black men, in a house which a black man built out of lumber which black men cut and planed; he may put on a suit which he bought at a colored haberdashery and socks knit at a colored mill; he may cook victuals from a colored grocery on a stove which black men fashioned; he may earn his living working for colored men, be sick in a colored hospital and buried from a colored church; and the Negro insurance society will pay his widow enough to keep his children in a colored school. This is surely progress.[23] Embracing the self-sufficiency evident in the commercial reality as summarized by Du Bois, including its “tolerant” white community, the African American community in Durham coalesced and grew at a time when hardships elsewhere coincided with new economic opportunities in a growing tobacco town.[24] Accompanying the transition was a transformation of the legal status of blacks from slave to free to segregated. Upon their emancipation from slavery, black southerners were left with almost no capital and with little immediate protection against racial hostility.[25] Some took the advice of the Freedmen’s Bureau and made contracts with landowners, often their former masters, for either annual wages or shelter and a percentage of the crop.[26] Under this crop lien system, most black sharecroppers became ensnared in a system of debt whereby they had to work for the rest of their lives in order to repay outstanding credit charges with interest rates as high as sixty percent.[27] Other former slaves became blacksmiths, coopers, carpenters, and shoemakers.[28] In North Carolina, however, many African Americans chose to leave their former plantations and towns and settled in Durham’s Station, where they could be autonomous.[29] A. Autonomy Yields Uplift Gradually, Durham expanded from a small railroad depot to a thriving town in Orange County where tobacco and textile tycoons built factories.[30] The rapidly growing tobacco industry in Durham was largely responsible for the influx of unskilled black laborers.[31] African Americans gathered in southeast Durham “in the settlement of colored people near the South East end of the Corporation . . . called Hayti” in 1877.[32] The name “Hayti” was meant to evoke “the image of the independent black state Haiti” and reflected the principles of “race pride, self-help, and autonomy” to which the residents of the section aspired.[33] Over time, Hayti grew through mutual support from free and freed black people and “benign neglect” from white civic leaders.[34] Racial tensions in Durham were tempered by the ideal of the “New South.”[35] There was a stronger emphasis on work ethic, which became “the proper and honorable business of daily life,” and, consequently, whites became more tolerant of black progress.[36] Other factors contributing to peaceful racial coexistence were Christian charity, advocated by white Methodists and Baptists, and white paternalism—hallmarks of the Protestant work ethic that characterized this era.[37] Moreover, “[r]etreating from the direct supervision of whites, most blacks preferred to live among one another, for the sake of their comfort rather than racial custom.”[38] This racial autonomy made segregation laws, which were not passed in Durham until the twentieth century, unnecessary.[39] By the end of the nineteenth century, Durham was the richest municipality in North Carolina.[40] The tobacco manufacturing industry, which “linked traditional agrarian economies to a modern industrialized world,” attracted blacks migrating from rural to urban areas in the South.[41] Black entrepreneurs served as the core leadership during the expansionist Reconstruction era and became role models for the black freedman community during the 1880s, setting the stage for an emergent black middle class in Durham.[42] The epicenter of this activity took form over the next decades in the community of Hayti. Hayti ran from Pettigrew Street to parts of Fayetteville and Roxboro Streets.[43] It was a business and residential district of over 600 homes and over 100 businesses.[44] Many of the laborers living in Hayti resided in the north and west reaches of the neighborhood, within walking distance of the factories, while the majority of those buying or building their own houses in the next suburbs beyond Hayti’s southern boundary worked in nearby Hayti’s business district.[45] The neighborhoods surrounding Hayti were so prominent during the 1950s that some whites took Sunday drives down Fayetteville Street just to marvel at the African American homes and lifestyles.[46] Nevertheless, Hayti and other large communities, such as East End, also had conclaves of poor blacks.[47] Poorer communities, such as Buggy Bottom and Hickstown, were mainly composed of migrant and factory workers and were collectively referred to as “The Bottoms.”[48] The Urban League described “The Bottoms” as “overcrowded and unsanitary” and “filled with crime and immorality.”[49] Additionally, in 1936, the North Carolina State Board of Health conducted a study on “The Bottoms” and concluded that the conditions there were deplorable.[50] Thus, in many ways, the black success story in Durham is “a tale of two cities.”[51] B. Middle Class Emerges Both Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Durham, North Carolina, were called “Black Wall Street.”[52] In 1920, W. E. B. Du Bois “referred to Durham, specifically the Hayti area, as the ‘Negro business mecca of the [S]outh.’ “[53] In these prosperous conditions, several men of business stood out among the rest, building some of the city’s predominant African American-owned establishments. Durham’s three most notable black businessmen were John Merrick, Dr. Aaron M. Moore, and Charles C. Spaulding.[54] Merrick was a barber,[55] Moore was Durham’s first black physician,[56] and Spaulding was a business leader.[57] Merrick and six of Durham’s leading black business and professional men organized the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1898.[58] Together with Moore and Spaulding, Merrick also established the Mechanics and Farmers Bank in 1907[59] and the Merrick-Moore-Spaulding Real Estate Company in 1912.[60] Moore founded the Lincoln Hospital in 1901[61] and the Stanford L. Warren Library in 1913 with Merrick.[62] For Durham’s black elite, Jim Crow obstructed access to mainstream America, but simultaneously and ironically created a “captive clientele of customers.”[63] Black citizens of Durham were prohibited from even entering certain white businesses, so they had no other option than to patronize businesses owned by the black business class.[64] Black women, in particular, “facilitated the development of . . . beauty salons, dress and hat shops, shoe stores, meat and fish markets, movie theaters, cafes and restaurants.”[65] Eventually, the Mechanics and Farmers Bank (known today as “M&F Bank”) reportedly became the “largest bank in the world operated by Negroes”[66] while North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association had become the largest and most successful African American-owned business in the country, with approximately $1.6 million in revenue, before co-founder John Merrick’s death in 1919.[67] Durham also had five black manufacturing companies that produced mattresses, hosiery, brick, iron articles, and dressed lumber.[68] But it was North Carolina Mutual and Mechanics and Farmers Bank that stood as the most ambitious commercial undertakings of the time. Anchoring what would become Durham’s black Wall Street was the North Carolina Mutual Provident Association, which was founded in 1898 and in which both John Merrick and Aaron McDuffie Moore were involved.[69] North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, as it is known today, is one of the largest companies founded by African Americans.[70] John Merrick was the first president of North Carolina Mutual Provident Association, followed by Dr. Aaron Moore.[71] Both John Merrick and Charles Clinton Spaulding waged an uphill battle in chartering an insurance company for blacks, given that blacks had relatively short life expectancies.[72] The fledgling North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company was paid a visit by Booker T. Washington, the champion of thrift and self-help, in 1910 while Washington was on a tour through North Carolina.[73] Booker T. Washington “hailed [Durham] as a national model for the black middle class.”[74] One of the most transformative contributions of the North Carolina Mutual Provident Association was its multidimensional effort to further empower its client base through support for the desegregation of a divided Durham.[75] Not only did the insurance company provide job opportunities to Durham’s black community, but it also gave African Americans of Durham and elsewhere that special security of knowing that they, along with their family, would be taken care of in an inevitable time of need.[76] Moreover, “[d]espite the segregation and discrimination faced by so many in the early 1900s, blacks in Durham enjoyed the highest per capita income, and the highest rate of home ownership, in the country among blacks.”[77] North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company today is a multi-million dollar company, proving successful to African Americans, Durham, and America.[78] Another black-owned company, Mechanics and Farmers Bank, soon joined North Carolina Mutual Provident Association in Durham on February 25, 1907.[79] Mechanics and Farmers Bank provided the African American community of Durham an opportunity to finance their home purchases or various business ventures under the authority of black loan officers and relationship bankers.[80] Mechanics and Farmers Bank also allowed blacks a safe and reliable place in which to deposit and earn interest on their money.[81] Mechanics and Farmers Bank was principally founded by a group of nine African Americans, including Richard B. Fitzgerald, James E. Shepard, William G. Pearson, Jesse A. Dodson, James R. Hawkins, John Merrick, Aaron M. Moore, G. W. Stephens, and Stanford L. Warren.[82] The leaders among the bank’s founding group included Richard B. Fitzgerald, James E. Shepard, and William G. Pearson.[83] Richard B. Fitzgerald “was the leader of the Bank’s originators, investing the first $1,500 towards the total required.”[84] Fitzgerald was a Union Army veteran and jointly owned a brickyard with his brother.[85] Surprisingly, many of these bricks were used in the construction of many of Durham’s historic buildings.[86] James E. Shepard was a preacher, a politician, and a pharmacist.[87] “Shepard is credited with writing what became the charter proposal that led to the incorporation of [Mechanics and Farmers] Bank.”[88] William G. Pearson was a teacher who later became a principal and supervisor in the Durham City Schools.[89] Jesse A. Dodson was a graduate of Shaw University, where he remained to teach for two years after his graduation.[90] He later became a pharmacist and an elementary school principal before founding the Mechanics and Farmers Bank.[91] James R. Hawkins was the youngest of the nine incorporators of the bank.[92] Hawkins financed his education at Leonard Medical College at Shaw University by working in hotels and steamboats during the summers.[93] Hawkins, after becoming a licensed physician, set up private practice in Greensboro, North Carolina.[94] John Merrick, a native of Clinton, North Carolina, was a “major influence in the building and development of Black Wall Street.”[95] Aaron M. Moore was Durham’s first African American physician.[96] Moore also earned a law degree before pursing his medical career.[97] Moore was a partner in Merrick-Moore-Spaulding Real Estate and “was instrumental in the founding of Lincoln Hospital.”[98] Stanford L. Warren was a graduate of Leonard Medical College at Shaw University and “was the grandfather of J. W. Taylor, [Mechanics and Farmers] Bank’s eighth president.”[99] Lastly, W. G. Stevens was the ninth founder of the Mechanics and Farmers Bank.[100] The founders of Mechanics and Farmers Bank funded the initial $10,000 in capital.[101] Today, Mechanics and Farmers Bank is a multi-million dollar company and “has been a profitable institution every year since opening its doors.”[102] On February 25, 2007, Mechanics and Farmers Bank celebrated its 100th anniversary since its initial founding in 1907.[103] In addition to businesses, blacks in Durham established schools, libraries, and churches. In 1910, Dr. James Edward Shepard, a black pharmacist, founded the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua, which is now North Carolina Central University.[104] The Durham Colored Library, now Stanford L. Warren Branch Library, became the second black library in North Carolina in 1916.[105] Meanwhile, in 1866,[106] Margaret Faucette, “a widow with thirteen children,” founded White Rock Baptist Church and “gave the first dollar for its building.”[107] “Missionaries Molly and Edian Markham founded Union Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church,” which was later renamed St. Joseph AME Zion Church, in 1869.[108] St. Joseph and White Rock Baptist Church became the centers for black political leadership in Durham.[109] Meanwhile, beyond leaving the blacks unmolested, the white community in Durham even actively supported the black middle class in some ways. For example, Washington Duke, a white philanthropist, donated $85,550 toward the construction of Lincoln Hospital, which was the first black hospital in Durham.[110] A 1921 article published in the Atlanta Independent described the progress of African Americans in Durham with the statement, “There is more grace, grit, and greenback among the Negroes in Durham and more harmony between the races than in any city in America.”[111] In sum, according to Du Bois, “the greatest factor in Durham’s development [was] the disposition of the mass of ordinary white citizens of Durham,”[112] and this dynamic would foster the emergence of a black legal establishment over the first half of the 1900s. C. Political Influence as a Function of Economic Success Affluence also helped the black middle class assume some political power in Durham. The first black political organization in Durham, the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs (“DCNA”), was established in 1935, and C. C. Spaulding and James E. Shepard were two of the organization’s first leaders.[113] The DCNA fought for social and economic rights for blacks and helped get several of its candidates elected to political office.[114] One member of the DCNA, Rencher N. Harris, was the first African American to be elected to the Durham City Council in 1953 and served on the Durham City Board of Education.[115] This political achievement was likely due to the fact that “[t]he black middle class in Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem . . . comprised most of the black voters in the state.”[116] III. A COMPETITIVE LAW SCHOOL FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS IS BORN As blacks gained economic and political clout, they turned their attention back to education and, with newly minted middle-class sensibilities, the establishment of more professional schools to serve them at home. The capstone outgrowth of this movement was the North Carolina Central University School of Law (“NCCU Law”), originally North Carolina College for Negroes Law School, which became the first public school in North Carolina to offer blacks the opportunity to obtain a formal legal education.[117] Like many other historically black law schools, NCCU Law was opened by North Carolina in response to Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada,[118] a 1938 case that required states to offer blacks facilities for legal education that were “substantially equal” to those available to whites.[119] The establishment of this school laid the groundwork for a black bar to develop in the unique black commercial orbit that was Hayti. NCCU Law, which opened its doors in the fall of 1939, began with limited resources but has experienced growth over the years in both its size and its reputation.[120] Despite periods of uncertainty as to its continued viability in the era of integration, the school has grown, prospered, and graduated notable attorneys.[121] A. Authorizing a Law School for Blacks The North Carolina General Assembly (“NCGA”) enacted House Bill 18 on March 1, 1939, authorizing the North Carolina College for Negroes Board of Trustees to establish the North Carolina College for Negroes Law School,[122] which today is NCCU Law. The North Carolina legislature did not decide to open NCCU Law simply because its members thought the state needed another law school. Impetus and strategy undergirded the decision.[123] Prior to the opening of NCCU Law, blacks in North Carolina had very few opportunities to obtain a formal legal education.[124] Shaw University School of Law was open from 1888 to 1914 and graduated 54 students during its existence.[125] Even though it was a private law school and, as such, primarily relied on tuition and private donations in order to operate,[126] the majority of black lawyers in North and South Carolina into the 1930s were Shaw graduates.[127] Due to problems with student discipline, however, the Shaw Board of Trustees voted to close the law school in February of 1914.[128] The University of North Carolina had the only public law school in North Carolina before the opening of NCCU Law, and it did not allow blacks to attend until the summer of 1951, when Floyd McKissick and five other black law students enrolled.[129] This was a problem because, according to Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, states had to offer blacks facilities for legal education that were “substantially equal” to those available to whites.[130] B. Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938) Lloyd Gaines was a black citizen of Missouri.[131] He graduated in 1935 with a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University, a school run by the State of Missouri for the purpose of offering blacks higher education.[132] Lincoln University did not have a law school, however, so Gaines applied to the University of Missouri School of Law (“UM Law”).[133] Gaines was academically qualified to attend UM Law but was denied admission because it was “contrary to the constitution, laws, and public policy of the State to admit a negro as a student in the University of Missouri.”[134] The state thus offered to help him pay to attend law school in a neighboring state so that he would only pay the equivalent of in-state tuition.[135] Arguing that this violated his right to equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment, Gaines brought this action for mandamus to compel UM Law to admit him.[136] The Supreme Court determined that the primary issue in this case was whether Missouri had violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by not affording blacks the same right as whites to attend law school within the state and instead forcing them to attend law schools in adjacent states.[137] The Court first looked at Pearson v. Murray,[138] a similar case decided by the Maryland Court of Appeals. The Maryland Court of Appeals decided that a provision for scholarships to enable blacks to attend colleges outside of the state was inadequate.[139] In Gaines, the Supreme Court noted that the Supreme Court of Missouri differentiated the case before it from the Maryland case on two grounds.[140] First, the Supreme Court of Missouri said that in Missouri, but not in Maryland, there was “a legislative declaration of a purpose to establish a law school for negroes at Lincoln University whenever necessary or practical.”[141] Second, the court held that “pending the establishment of such a school, adequate provision has been made for the legal education of negro students in recognized schools outside of this State.”[142] The Supreme Court did not agree with the Missouri Supreme Court on these grounds. As for the first ground, the Court stated that “it appears that the policy of establishing a law school at Lincoln University has not yet ripened into an actual establishment, and it cannot be said that a mere declaration of purpose, still unfulfilled, is enough.”[143] As for the Missouri Supreme Court’s second argument, the Court said that the opportunities other states provided and whether those opportunities were as good as the ones offered in Missouri were irrelevant.[144] The real question was “what opportunities Missouri itself furnishe[d] to white students and denie[d] to negroes solely upon the ground of color.”[145] Missouri provided white residents a legal education within the state, but black residents, equally qualified, were refused an education inside the state and had to go to adjacent states to obtain one.[146] According to the Court, “[t]hat [was] a denial of the equality of legal right to the enjoyment of the privilege which the State has set up, and the provision for payment of tuition fees in another state does not remove the discrimination.”[147] Because Missouri did not afford Gaines equal protection under the law, the Court held that Missouri was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and that it must provide blacks facilities for legal education that were “substantially equal” to those available to whites.[148] C. Political Maneuvering in a White State Legislature The Gaines decision had a major impact on North Carolina because the General Assembly knew that it would have to provide blacks with the opportunity to obtain a formal legal education within the state. The General Assembly basically had two choices. It could desegregate the University of North Carolina School of Law (“UNC”), which was the only public law school in the state at the time, or it could open a new law school specifically for the purpose of educating blacks.[149] The State ultimately decided to go the latter route and announced it would open North Carolina College for Negroes Law School, now NCCU Law, in 1939.[150] Blacks were prominent in North Carolina politics during the Reconstruction Era and through the end of the nineteenth century.[151] They served as school board members, sheriffs, and representatives to the General Assembly.[152] This all began to change, however, when white Democrats began to take control of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1872.[153] White Democrats generally opposed equal rights for blacks and whites, so they worked hard to remove blacks from public office.[154] These racial tensions and a shift in political power led North Carolina to follow in the footsteps of other states in passing segregation laws.[155] These segregation laws continued to fuel racial tensions well into the twentieth century.[156] White Democrats continued to dominate the North Carolina General Assembly when the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the Gaines case in 1938.[157] Because of this, there was not much legislative support for the desegregation of UNC,[158] and the General Assembly passed House Bill 18, authorizing the Board of Trustees to establish the North Carolina College for Negroes Law School.[159] D. House Bill 18 (March 1, 1939) The General Assembly passed House Bill 18 on March 1, 1939.[160] It authorized the opening of a law school at the North Carolina College for Negroes, the first public institution to offer blacks the opportunity to receive a formal legal education within the State of North Carolina.[161] It was the first school, public or private, to offer blacks the opportunity to obtain a formal legal education in North Carolina, since the closing of Shaw University Law School in 1914.[162] The trustees did not want to desegregate UNC, so NCCU Law was a way to create what was supposed to be a separate but equal law school for blacks.[163] E. Challenges at the Outset NCCU Law opened its doors in the fall of 1939, but, due to the short amount of time the school had to hire faculty, prepare a curriculum, and advertise, only one student registered.[164] Because of this dearth of students, the school delayed its opening until September of 1940.[165] Maurice T. Van Hecke, the dean at UNC, served as the first dean of NCCU Law from 1939 to 1942.[166] Schools were still segregated during this time period, so it was unique to have a white dean at a black school, but because formal legal education for blacks in North Carolina was virtually non-existent before the opening of NCCU Law, there were very few black individuals who were qualified for the job.[167] The first class at the new school consisted of five students who were selected from a group of fifteen applicants.[168] These applicants were from states such as North Carolina, Texas, and Maryland.[169] Students from Texas applied because Texas did not have a law school for blacks to attend until the Texas State University for Negroes (Thurgood Marshall School of Law) opened in Austin, Texas, in 1946.[170] [[170 See Marguerite L. Butler, The History of Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law: “The House that Sweatt Built,” 23 T. MARSHALL L. REV. 45, 45 (1997) (citations omitted) (“The Fiftieth Texas Legislature, in 1947, passed Texas Senate Bill 140 to establish the Texas State University for Negroes. The legislature established this University for the sole purpose of creating a separate but equal school of law for Negroes and to effectively prevent Heman Sweatt’s admission to the University of Texas Law School.”).NCCU Law had a higher student-faculty ratio, fewer facilities, fewer library books, lower faculty salaries, and a lower budget than UNC, Duke, and Wake Forest Law.[209] Nevertheless, NCCU Law has continued to strengthen and grow over the years despite these early challenges. IV. PRACTICING LAW IN THE “BLACK WALL STREET” The lines are drawn however, and neither the law schools nor the lawyers can retreat. The great work of the Negro lawyer in the next generation must be in the South . . . . —Charles Hamilton Houston[210] For African Americans seeking to practice law in the South during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, educational and professional opportunities were scarce. After the Civil War, most blacks attended Howard University for law school.[211] “Between 1871 and 1900, Howard graduated about 328 law students,” which included “practically all academically trained black lawyers during this post-Civil War period.”[212] During Reconstruction, prominent black lawyers practiced in the South, where blacks found economic and political doors to have swung open.[213] However, by 1910, there still were only 361 black lawyers practicing in the South, despite the fact that eighty-nine percent of the black population lived in southern states.[214] This number decreased to 330 by 1930, and many black lawyers were forced to rely upon other jobs, such as positions in United States Post Offices, for a livelihood.[215] A. Exclusion and Lack of Opportunity Black lawyers were also excluded from the American Bar Association (“ABA”) despite persistently obtaining law degrees.[216] In 1912, the ABA adopted a resolution requiring black lawyers to indicate their race on their membership applications, forcing a declaration that equipped ABA members to identify and veto black applicants.[217] The resolution was instigated by white ABA members when they discovered that three black lawyers—William Henry Lewis, Butler Roland Wilson, and William R. Morris—had been admitted into the Association.[218] “The color barrier was not broken until the sixty-sixth annual meeting of the ABA in 1943,” where the bylaws were amended to allow membership by black lawyers.[219] While there were many legal atrocities committed against blacks in the South, black lawyers had very little power in southern courts.[220] Between 1900 and 1940, blacks only represented between 0.6% and 0.8% of the national bar, mainly due to “the diminution of black lawyers’ socioeconomic status and impact.”[221] Sociologist Gunnar Myrdal noted that “[p]rotection by a ‘respectable’ white person usually count[ed] more in the South for a Negro client than would even the best representation on the part of the Negro lawyer.”[222] Consequently, southern black lawyers primarily handled internal affairs within the black community, such as legal matters connected to the church or domestic relations.[223] B. Prominent Black Lawyers in the South Despite the lack of opportunities, there emerged a plethora of notable black lawyers throughout the South around the same period as that of African American economic advancement in Durham. In Georgia, James Garfield Lemon “became an attorney for the Southwestern Claim and Collection Company in Savannah” and was one of only two black lawyers in Savannah until 1932.[224] Additionally, Austin T. Walden and A. W. Ricks represented a black dentist from Atlanta who was beaten for refusing to give up his seat on a public streetcar in 1927.[225] “Walden and Ricks . . . filed an unprecedented civil action for damages against the streetcar company” and won $1,500 in damages.[226] In South Carolina, “only a few black lawyers can be identified” as having been admitted to the bar after Reconstruction, but two prominent black lawyers, Jacob Moorer and John Adams, Jr., did emerge “in the early part of 1900.”[227] These lawyers diligently defended a black man who was indicted by an all-white grand jury, accused of murdering a white man, and ultimately convicted of the murder.[228] Like South Carolina, Virginia had an underrepresentation of black lawyers admitted to the bar during the early 1900s.[229] One black lawyer, A. H. Collins, was eventually allowed to appear before the Corporation Court of Alexandria, Virginia, and successfully “defended two youths charged with assault and robbery in 1922.”[230] Finally, in West Virginia during the 1920s, Thomas Gillis Nutter became a noted African American lawyer, practicing both criminal and commercial law and representing several commercial enterprises, including the only black-owned bank in the state, the Mutual Savings and Loan Company of Charleston.[231] C. Black Law Practice in Durham Compared to other African American lawyers throughout the Southeast, African American lawyers in Durham enjoyed better political and economic opportunities.[232] One of the first successful black lawyers to practice in Durham in the early twentieth century was Robert McCants Andrews, who became a “successful civil and criminal lawyer practicing in both the state and federal courts.”[233] Andrews had graduated from the law school of Howard University in 1918 and, thereafter, joined the North Carolina bar in 1921 and settled in Durham.[234] Andrews was a pioneer in several respects, such as becoming the “first black lawyer to represent a group of blacks in Chester, North Carolina,” and winning the largest verdict by a black lawyer in North Carolina during the 1920s.[235] The verdict was for $6,900 in a suit against an insurance company in which Andrews successfully tendered African American professionals as expert witnesses before an all-white jury.[236] Following Robert McCants Andrews, several African American lawyers came to Durham during the 1920s, attracted to its burgeoning financial market. Meredith Hugh Thompson and his frequent collaborator, Caswell Jerry “C. J.” Gates, began practicing in Durham in 1923 and 1927, respectively.[237] Thompson was admitted to the North Carolina Bar in 1923 and became the first civil rights lawyer to practice in Durham.[238] Caswell Jerry Gates earned a law degree from Boston University and taught at public schools in Henderson, North Carolina, before establishing a law practice in Durham in 1927.[239] In 1939, Gates successfully defended a black woman and her children in federal court against whites who attempted to seize a 111-acre farm located in Caswell County, North Carolina.[240] Another of Gates’ achievements in civil law was winning a $65,000 suit, one of the largest brought against a transportation company in Durham County, against Blue Bird Taxi Company in 1938.[241] Gates represented the plaintiffs, who sustained serious injuries when their car collided with a taxi owned by the taxi company.[242] Within the same court term, Gates was also victorious in one suit in which he defended the Shepard Funeral Home and another in which he defended a grantee in a real estate transaction.[243] After Thompson and Gates set up their law practices, Conrad Odelle Pearson, one of the most fervent civil rights attorneys in the state, began practicing in 1932.[244] Pearson was among the younger generation of black professionals in Durham who called themselves the “Radical Young Negroes,” which included colleague Cecil McCoy and the owner and editor of the confrontational Carolina Times, Louis Austin.[245] After arriving in Durham, Pearson quickly joined the Durham Chapter of the NAACP and “was one of the founders of the Citizens Committee on Negro Affairs.”[246] A few years later, Cecil McCoy and Edward Richard Avant began practicing in Durham in 1931 and 1937, respectively.[247] All five lawyers—Thompson, Gates, Pearson, McCoy, and Avant—were connected in some way, through either litigation or community associations.[248] For example, Thompson and Gates both held managerial positions at St. Joseph AME Church, which Pearson also attended and where his uncle, William G. Pearson, was a prominent member.[249] Additionally, Pearson and McCoy collaborated on various civil rights cases beginning in 1933 and, likewise, Gates partnered with Thompson and Avant on such cases beginning in 1934.[250] D. Black Bar Associations Along with distinguished lawyers, the “Black Wall Street” in Durham contained several black bar groups. African American lawyers in North Carolina had already established a black bar association, the Negro State Bar Association of North Carolina, in 1920 after they were systematically excluded from the ABA and voluntary bars within the state.[251] The Durham Negro Bar Association merged with the North Carolina Lawyers Association, which was founded by M. Hugh Thompson, Ed Avant, and others in 1954.[252] The Durham Negro Bar Association also helped establish the Old Negro State Bar Association, the successor to the Negro State Bar Association of North Carolina, in 1935.[253] A lawyer from Durham, Franklin Walter Williams, served as the organization’s first president.[254] Durham also hosted the fourteenth annual meeting of the National Bar Association (“NBA”), the oldest African American bar association in the country, in 1938.[255] During the meeting, NBA members were charged with opening “wide the gates of all schools and universities so that from the race will come intellectual achievement [that will] demand recognition of the world.”[256] Part of this mission was accomplished one year later when the North Carolina General Assembly amended the charter of the North Carolina College for Negroes (“N.C. College”) to allow for the development of a law school.[257] However, the law school did not become accredited until February 27, 1950, after protesters picketed around the State Capitol.[258] The bar groups and law school were crowning achievements made possible by the support of an economically prosperous black middle class community, but what is even more remarkable is that these lawyers also placed themselves on the front line of the battle for civil rights. V. SOCIAL JUSTICE WORK WHILE CLIMBING THE ECONOMIC LADDER: DURHAM’S BLACK CORPORATE LAWYERS FIGHT BATTLES IN AND OUT OF THE COURTROOM When people get to the point that they are in control, they don’t like to share that control, even with a kinsman. —Conrad Odelle Pearson[259] In 1928, historian Carter G. Woodson conducted a survey of approximately 25,000 black professionals, including 503 lawyers.[[260}} [[260]] CARTER G. WOODSON, THE NEGRO PROFESSIONAL MAN AND THE COMMUNITY, at xiv, 193 (Negro Univ. Press 1969) (1934).[[260]] The survey revealed that most southern black lawyers were confined to practicing in civil matters that did not require appearances before a court, except in large cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, or Durham.[261] Lawyers from Durham who were interviewed reported that they had access to the libraries of prominent lawyers and had cordial professional relationships.[262] The advantages held by black lawyers in Durham may have been the result of minimal racial friction in the city.[263] This lack of intense racial friction, combined with the fact that North Carolina was slightly more progressive than other “Deep South” states and in close proximity to Washington, D.C., where NAACP Legal Defense Fund trail-blazer Charles Hamilton Houston operated, would eventually make Durham an ideal platform to launch major attacks against segregation.[264] A. Poverty and Inequality Prevalent During the Era of Black Wall Street Before 1930, however, poverty within Durham’s black community and the lack of power among its members in general made such progress difficult. Overall, “African Americans [in Durham] . . . were allowed enough latitude to create symbols of progress but insufficient flexibility or power to forge significant change.”[265] The overwhelming majority of the black population in Durham lived in abject poverty and worked under appalling conditions.[266] Accordingly, in contemplating the problem of segregation on a large scale, African American lawyers in Durham faced the implications of the fundamental inequality defining the local black circumstance. In 1919, an official census of black schools showed that there were “forty-two illiterate young people among African Americans, aged twelve to twenty one,” within Durham County.[267] In 1920, there were rumors that some black Durhamites had gone so far as to torch Whitted School, the city’s only black public high school, in order to force the city to rebuild a better school.[268] There were also severe health issues afflicting the black community in Durham. Between 1910 and 1920, the death rate among blacks in the city increased from 26 to 29.9 deaths per thousand, while the death rate among whites decreased from 16.6 to 10 per thousand.[269] Many blacks lived in unsanitary conditions created by muddy streets, poor drainage, and uncontrolled sewage, making them susceptible to contagious diseases.[270] In addition, Lincoln Hospital, the city’s only black hospital, was extremely understaffed, with only three paid employees.[271] Given that poor blacks were the most vulnerable to these inequalities, “[i]t was the members of the black elite who were positioned to mount the most direct challenges to Jim Crow . . . and the least likely to do so.”[272] B. A New Activism The career of Conrad Odell Pearson “represented a turn away from the tradition of moderation that had brought his uncle [, William G. Pearson,] acclaim on both sides of the color line” to a new custom of overt defiance against Jim Crow segregation.[273] Pearson and the new generation of black lawyers rejected the aversion to mass social change shown by the old black aristocracy and immersed themselves in civil rights litigation, with or without the help of the NAACP.[274] Additionally, unlike the NAACP, which focused on desegregating schools, Durham’s black lawyers fought for equality in the criminal justice system from the 1930s to the 1960s.[275] Pearson, M. Hugh Thompson, and C. J. Gates were among the first black lawyers in the state to take an active role in civil rights litigation and were among the first leaders of the new civil rights era in Durham.[276] In the early years of the NAACP, a group of white lawyers represented the organization in legal matters.[277] Walter White, a NAACP executive, felt that, until 1929, African American attorneys were not qualified to handle civil rights litigation.[278] This view changed when Charles Hamilton Houston inaugurated a rigorous law program at Howard University.[279] 1. Hocutt v. Wilson The first major civil rights case that Durham’s black lawyers introduced was Hocutt v. Wilson.[280] In February 1933, Pearson and McCoy wrote to NAACP General Secretary Walter White regarding a case to desegregate the University of North Carolina school system.[281] Thomas Hocutt, an African American student at N.C. College, sought admission to the University of North Carolina Pharmacy School.[282] White ratified the case and offered to send a copy of the Margold Report[283] on discrimination in public schools to support the attorneys.[284] The NAACP even sent William Henry Hastie, an Amherst valedictorian and Harvard Law School graduate,[285] to assist Pearson and McCoy.[286] However, the black community in Durham had a mixed reaction to the Hocutt suit.[287] The Durham Morning Herald echoed the opinion of the conservative black leadership when it warned, “To our way of thinking, [Pearson and McCoy] will find in the end that they have won not a victory but a costly defeat.”[288] Additionally, Thompson and Gates recommended dropping the case and finding an alternative solution.[289] The alternative solution was a bill sponsored by Durham State Representative S. C. Brawley that would obligate the state to fund graduate education for blacks at out-of-state institutions.[290] With the support of the black working class and the NAACP, Pearson, McCoy, and Hastie pursued the litigation, to which The Durham Morning Herald responded, “[the] militant Negroes voted to demand a showdown on the case.”[291] The greatest opposition faced by Pearson, McCoy, and Hastie in the Hocutt case came from James E. Shepard, president of the N.C. College.[292] Shepard criticized integration as a remedy to educational deficiency and advocated for segregated in-state institutions for black graduates.[293] Shepard wanted the state to fund graduate programs at N.C. College, so he refused to release Hocutt’s transcript.[294] When Pearson and McCoy failed to present an official transcript, the case was dismissed due to lack of standing.[295] McCoy left North Carolina at the conclusion of Hocutt and settled in the northern city of Chicago,[296] to which southern blacks were migrating in droves as a kind of Promised Land of opportunity. 2. Thompson and Gates Take a Racially Biased Criminal Case Despite Pearson, McCoy, and Hastie’s loss in Hocutt, the case inspired local civil rights action,[297] and soon, Thompson and Gates were involved in a racially biased criminal trial.[298] In August 1933, Thompson and Gates took on the defense of Beaufort Kelly, a sixteen-year-old black male from Vance County, North Carolina, who was accused of kidnapping and assaulting[299] Mary Lena Vandyke, a sixteen-year-old white girl.[300] There were no black lawyers in Vance County at the time, and the Kelly family retained Thompson and Gates after their two white lawyers withdrew from the case due to fear of white reprisal.[301] Upon taking the case, Gates contacted William Hastie and Raymond Pace Alexander, a prominent lawyer in Philadelphia, for assistance and also wrote to Walter White for financial support.[302] Answering for the NAACP, Assistant Secretary Roy Wilkins coldly responded that he did not recommend that Hastie or Alexander serve as co-counsel in the case.[303] This was a predictable response, given the NAACP’s emphasis on school integration at the time. On the night of October 5, 1933, a white mob fired shots at Thompson and Gates and pursued their car as they were leaving the courthouse following a night session.[304] The lawyers escaped safely and filed a motion for change of venue and motion for mistrial, arguing that the white jury would be influenced by the threat of violence.[305] The lawyers presented evidence that actual shots were fired and called several witnesses who testified that they saw pistol fire and men attempting to grab Thompson and Gates.[306] When asked if the defendant could receive a fair and impartial trial in light of the shooting, an all-white panel of witnesses answered in the affirmative.[307] Thompson and Gates appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court in the case State v. Kelly.[308] The lawyers requested financial support from the NAACP for the appeal, and the NAACP sent them a check for fifty dollars.[309] Additionally, Thompson and Gates received the assistance of William Hastie.[310] The North Carolina Supreme Court held that the trial judge improperly believed he had no discretion in sentencing the defendants under the statute and remanded the case for resentencing.[311] C. Resistance to Change Among the Older Generation of Black Leaders During the fall of 1933, the NAACP also focused on Durham in its campaign to equalize the salaries of black and white teachers.[312] Assistant NAACP Secretary Roy Wilkins attempted to contact C. C. Spaulding for advice on how to implement the campaign in Durham, but Spaulding did not reply.[313] Spaulding, Shepard, and William Pearson believed that “their leadership, the welfare of their community, and the survival of their institutions depended on not vexing whites.”[314] They did not oppose equal teacher pay or an end to Jim Crow; rather, they preferred pragmatic approaches to these issues that would not incur the wrath of the dominating white community.[315] The old guard of black leadership was afraid that aggressive strategies of equalization would subject Durham blacks to the same repercussions inflicted upon progressive blacks in Wilmington, North Carolina.[316] Accordingly, none of these men paid dues to the local chapter of the NAACP, and they often publicly opposed the organization.[317] The NAACP pushed forward with the salary-equalization campaign, even though Spaulding, Shepard, and the senior Pearson prevented it from holding either a planning meeting or rally in Durham.[318] The NAACP sent Daisy Lampkin, a NAACP organizer, to each major city in North Carolina to rally teachers and stimulate teacher interest for equal salaries.[319] When Lampkin arrived in Durham, she was appalled to discover that “someone [had] started a campaign to raise money from the community to cover the salary differential.”[320] Additionally, to intimidate campaign supporters, Shepard held a closed-door meeting with state and local black leaders at the North Carolina Mutual building, from which the “radical young Negroes” were locked out.[321] At the meeting, Shepard proposed that the leaders organize an alternative to the NAACP that would embrace certain NAACP ideologies, such as black inclusion on juries, but would also appeal to local whites.[322] Durham’s blacks had divergent approaches to the salary-equalization campaign and to black resistance in general.[323] “Teachers, virtually all women, supported the NAACP”; the old guard, all “male . . . publicly contested the NAACP; and the younger generation . . . also male, supported the NAACP but mostly declined to defy the leadership of the old guard.”[324] While the younger generation was more radical, its members were also financially dependent on the black elite.[325] The Carolina Times depended on advertising from North Carolina Mutual and Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and similarly, M. Hugh Thompson, Cecil McCoy, and Conrad Pearson “relied on [North Carolina] Mutual and its subsidiaries for a steady flow of work.”[326] Nonetheless, Pearson and the other black lawyers continued to litigate civil rights matters and publicly support campaigns such as the unionization of Durham tobacco workers.[327] They made their mark in serving the business and commercial interests of Durham’s black firms as well.[328] D. Legal Milestones: Even with Socio-Political Priorities Taking Shape, a Corporate Bar Emerges Following the Kelly trial, Gates represented Alfred McKinney, an African American who was injured when their car collided with a taxi owned by Durham’s Blue Bird Taxi Company, a company owned and operated by whites.[329] Gates successfully secured a $65,000 award for damages for his African American client as a result of the injuries sustained, which was one of the largest settlements of its time.[330] Thompson and Gates, together, also represented Mechanics and Farmers Bank, as Hayti was growing into a seventy acre business and residential district of 600 people and more than 100 black businesses.[331] Other forms of black lawyering complemented attorneys’ corporate books of business and no doubt sharpened their legal acumen. More importantly, however, the black lawyers’ continued success in the courtroom sketched for the North Carolinians they served—white and black—a vision for a changing tomorrow. Examples of creative advocacy abounded among the black lawyers of Durham. In February 1938, C. J. Gates and Ed Avant elected to serve as defense counsel for Ellen Harris, a black woman who refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Durham public bus.[332] Harris was arrested and fined ten dollars for her actions.[333] Gates and Avant brought the case before the Durham Superior Court and lost.[334] The lawyers then appealed to the Supreme Court of North Carolina in State v. Harris,[335] arguing that their motion for nonsuit was improperly denied.[336] The court invoked the “separate but equal doctrine” and held that Harris had not intended “to willfully violate the provisions of [the N.C. Admin. Code § 3536 (1935)].”[337] One month after her criminal trial, Ellen Harris retained Gates, who had recently won the large verdict against the Blue Bird Taxi Company, and sued the Durham Public Service Company for $15,000.[338] Once again, C. J. Gates and Edward Richard Avant were successful in their endeavor, proving that black lawyers, particularly in Durham, could defeat their counterparts, the Caucasian lawyers.[339] Gates settled the case for an unknown amount.[340] During 1938, Gates also served as private prosecutor “in the case against Ossie McCullen, a [twenty-nine-year-old] white man, charged with the rape of Miss Agnes Williams, a [twenty-two-year-old] Negro woman of Mt. Olive.”[341] McCullen allegedly attacked Williams at night while she was working in the home of I. F. Wellington as a cook.[342] Furthermore, Gates collaborated with M. Hugh Thompson, Conrad Pearson and Ed Avant to prosecute Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) Officer T. D. Wilkie for the murder of an innocent black man, James McNeil.[343] Wilkie and two other officers brutally killed McNeil on May 27, 1938, after entering his home to allegedly search for whiskey.[344] The prosecutors presented several witnesses, including four physicians, who testified that “they . . . found three wounds in McNeil’s abdomen . . . [and] multiple lacerations of the scalp.”[345] Dabbling in more commercial work, C. J. Gates in 1939 was, yet again, successful in defending an African American female against whites, this time defeating a group who tried to seize the black woman’s 111-acre farm in Caswell County, North Carolina.[346] Gates was also successful in the representation of the Shepard Funeral Home in an alleged wrongful-burial suit, where a jury concluded that the Shepard Funeral Home did not breach its contract with the plaintiff, thus barring recovery.[347] The next year, in 1939, Gates represented LeRoy Wilson in an assault case for $5,000 in damages against William F. Adcock.[348] Wilson, a black man, got in a fight with Adcock, a white man, after Adcock refused to take Wilson’s order at a café.[349] Adcock ferociously beat Wilson in the head until he completely knocked out Wilson’s left eye.[350] The case was highly criticized, in part inasmuch as the case was continued twenty-five times, causing the verdict to be delayed for six months.[351] Another case involving overt racism occurred in May 1939 when a white police officer verbally abused and assaulted a black teenager for sitting on the fender of the officer’s car.[352] M. Hugh Thompson served as prosecution in the case.[353] Three years later, in 1942, Pearson and Gates assisted the state in the prosecution of an ABC officer charged with beating an innocent black man using his fists and a blackjack.[354] The judge for the Durham County Recorders Court dismissed the case based on lack of sufficient evidence.[355] Between the 1930s and 1960s, Thompson, Gates and Pearson argued in a variety of civil rights cases, including the desegregation of North Carolina public schools, hospitals, recreational facilities, and the North Carolina Dental Association.[356] They were also influential in the composition of the Durham Manifesto in 1942, which demanded “voting rights, equalization of teacher salaries, desegregation of unions” and other rights that were denied to blacks.[357] Thompson, Gates, and Pearson practiced law in some capacity until their deaths in 1974,[358] 1970,[359] and 1984,[360] respectively. E. The Future: An Era that Still Inspires Unfortunately, the upward economic trajectory of Durham’s particularized black community did not last forever. Between 1947 and 1959, industrial development had slowed, and Durham was in a state of economic stagnation.[361] The economy in Durham could only be partially stimulated by an allocation of state and federal funds.[362] Later, between 1962 and 1972, a campaign of urban renewal demolished the Hayti area,[363] leaving St. Joseph AME Church as the only remnant of old Hayti.[364] Business and housing areas were destroyed and replaced by “new streets, public utilities and a fifteen-acre shopping mall.”[365] Today, the Mutual Building, located on West Chapel Hill Street, still stands as a testament to the grandeur and prominence of the “Black Wall Street” years in Durham, though it is no longer owned by its most prominent tenant, North Carolina Mutual.[366] Nevertheless, the black lawyers of that era paved the way for future prominent lawyers who practiced in Durham, such as Floyd B. McKissick and Charles Clinton Spaulding, Jr. McKissick became the first black man to attend UNC-Chapel Hill’s law school in 1952 and later served as the national director of the Congress of Racial Equality in 1966.[367] Spaulding, Jr., entered into private practice with the law firm Pearson, Malone, Johnson, and DeJarmon, where he practiced until 1981, and was later appointed to the North Carolina Criminal Code Commission for a three-year term.[368] Such gains would not have been possible without trailblazing black lawyers who were faithfully committed to racial justice, sometimes at risk to their own lives, regardless of the financial return or popularity of the case. CONCLUSION The early twentieth century in Durham marked a time of impressive economic growth within Durham’s African American community. The establishment of businesses and other institutions engendered an economic independence that in turn provided autonomy from whites. At the same time, an ethic of interdependence fostered a sense of possibilities and destiny far better than the days of chattel slavery just decades earlier. A self-assured and authoritative black commercial class emerged and increasingly asserted a political, economic, and social program of uplift. A resulting elite served as a pivotal source of economic opportunity for Durham’s black lawyers. Meanwhile, certain black businesses boomed, providing a handful of blacks the opportunity to engage in the full-time practice of law where black lawyers elsewhere had struggled. As corporate lawyers with some security, these lawyers took on causes greater than themselves, uniquely equipped to actualize the aims of social justice that Charles Hamilton Houston had envisioned in his seminal work The Need for Negro Lawyers.[369] With a unique understanding of the need to amass religious, commercial, political, and legal clout in order to rise above the badges of slavery and into an era of independence and freedom, the black business class of Durham created the conditions for a “Black Wall Street” to be born, to thrive, and to escape the wrath of the other similar districts around the country that disappeared by the mid-twentieth century. Visionary patrician citizens like Aaron M. Moore—who had earned a law degree before pursuing his medical career—refused to cede the legal ground that lay untapped among most black southerners, helping to lay the groundwork for the establishment in 1946 of a law school devoted to producing and empowering black lawyers. The old black corporate bar in Durham thereby served as a catalyst for black economic independence and the destruction of de jure racial desegregation. An examination of this sophisticated black community reveals that this small, black, corporate-oriented legal establishment demonstrated that financial success could foster racial progress and uplift in ways both direct and indirect. The obvious triumph of black enterprise that originated on the “Black Wall Street” of Durham, North Carolina, stands today as a powerful example of the symbiotic natures of economic success and social equality, particularly in a nation of laws, in which lawyers, to quote Houston, are singularly called upon to operate “the machinery of government.”[370]