February 2012 President's Column
An Independent Profession -- Our History Has Been Written
By: Robert C. Dortch, Jr.
The Mecklenburg County Bar's Centennial's 2012 Celebration has been mentioned in more than half of my president's columns so far this year, and, yes, I will do so again in this one because . . .. the long awaited book "An Independent Profession: A Centennial History of the Mecklenburg County Bar" is being printed and will soon be ready for distribution. This book is a history of our local Bar and is, in many ways, the foundation of the Centennial Celebration. It was written by Marion Author Ellis and Howard E. Covington, Jr., Mr. Ellis and Mr. Covington have collaborated on many projects including "The Story of NationsBank" and a biography of Terry Sanford to name just a couple. Our very own E. Osborne Ayscue, Jr. was instrumental in the production of this book and has provided countless hours of editing, revision and thoughtful commentary in a special foreword. Thank you, Ozzie, for all of your help.
On March 21, 2012, a pre-release and book signing reception will be held at the Levine Museum of the New South. Come and receive a signed copy of the book prior to the full distribution to the Bar, meet the authors and hear Ozzie discuss some of the stories that didn't make it in to the book -- equally entertaining from what I have heard.
Many scores of volunteers have worked hard to plan the various events scheduled for our 100th birthday; but in this column, I would like to especially thank the Bar History Committee, co-chaired by Ray Farris and Mark Bernstein, for helping to coordinate the writing of "An Independent Profession" that focuses on the history of our local Bar. As many people have observed, when the public thinks of lawyers they often think of who they hire if they get a speeding ticket, a divorce, or slip on some ice outside city hall. However, as lawyers we know that the law encompasses much more. We need to do a better job of educating our neighbors that the basis of a civilized society is the law, and without laws - and lawyers -, our society would be in a constant state of anarchy.
"An Independent Profession" portrays some of our local heroes and famous cases. The dust cover offers some teasers that make you want to pick up the book and start reading including "a duel between two noted attorneys, personal correspondence between a judge and a lawyer at the end of a bitterly controversial fight over busing, controversy over Darwinism in the 1920's, and the emergence of black and women lawyers in the Bar". From the book you will read the story of a growing Bar and a growing community. Not surprisingly, the Bar began with just a handful of white males. The Bar we know today is a robust, diverse Bar 4500 members strong. The Bar grew as our county grew and the book reflects the connection between the two.
According to Dr. Tom Hanchett, staff historian with the Levine Museum of the New South, "This book is a window into the changes our community and society have experienced over the last century. From civil rights struggles, corporate growth, the movement of women into public life, to the transformation of Charlotte from small regional cotton town to a major US city -- lawyers have been there every step of the way."
UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law Dean Jack Boger states "For those interested in history, An Independent Profession is an indispensable read. This lively, beautifully written book situates stories of the growth of Charlotte and of the Mecklenburg bar within a broader story about America's transformation from a largely rural, agricultural society to a sophisticated international power."
After many years of stops and starts, our history has been written. Many stories were captured and many photographs were included. Unfortunately, not every story or picture could be included in "An Independent Profession." So, for better or worse, our history has been written. It's out there, it's printed (almost) and it will be available to you soon. The truth is our stories can never be completely captured in a book. Each of us has unique stories about cases, partners, colleagues, clients, and courtroom "antics". . Most of us began this profession with the belief that we were going to change the world and make a contribution to the greater good. With that in mind, I hope you will read "An Independent Profession -- A Centennial History of the Mecklenburg County Bar", and come away with a feeling of pride in our Bar and in those Bar members before us who did so much to help shape the profession, our community, and our Bar. Enjoy the Centennial.