“If it were not for injustice, man would not know justice.”
Ten African American attorneys founded the Gate City Bar Association on January 25, 1948, in the office of Attorney Austin T. Walden.
Each of the founders was accomplished in their own right and maintained practices that served the African-American community and advanced civil rights in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. They were also leaders in numerous civic, religious, business, and community organizations.
Charles Clayton was a graduate of Morehouse College. He took legal correspondence courses from LaSalle Extension University and graduated from John Marshall Law School in 1944. Having served as a teacher and principal before law school, he was known as “Professor Clayton.” He practiced criminal law and served as a lawyer until his death at 104 in 1992.
Edward S. D’Antignac attended Clark College and was a student of the Blackstone Institute, a correspondence law school. He joined the Georgia bar in 1946. A member of the law office of Attorney Austin T. Walden, he was also very active in the Butler Street YMCA, the Atlanta Business League, and the American Legion. He passed away in 1969.
Thomas J. Henry, Jr., a World War I veteran, attended Clark College, Atlanta University, and graduated from Brooklyn School of Law in 1923, passing the Georgia bar the same year. He served as general counsel of the Mutual Federal Savings and Loan Association. He passed away in 1977.
Rachel Pruden Herndon was the first African American woman to become an attorney in Georgia in 1944. A graduate of Atlanta University, she began her legal career as the secretary of Attorney Austin T. Walden and “read the law” under his guidance before passing the bar. Mayor Ivan Allen appointed her a Pro Hac Judge of the Municipal Court of Atlanta in 1965. She passed away in 1979.
Thomas W. Holmes was the oldest founder of the Gate City Bar Association. He read the law under Attorney Peyton Allen, one of the first Black attorneys to practice in Atlanta, before passing the bar in 1912. One of his most notable matters was the handling of the estate of Atlanta resident Theodore “Tiger” Flowers, the first African American World Middleweight Boxing Champion. He passed away in 1973.
Eugene E. Moore, Jr. began his legal career in 1945 in Columbus, Georgia, before relocating to Atlanta. A graduate of North Carolina A&T College and Howard University School of Law, he argued civil rights cases on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and handled estate matters. He passed away in 1994.
Sylvester S. Robinson passed the bar in 1946 after graduating from Tuskegee Institute and Howard University School of Law. He spent much of his career fighting for the civil rights of African Americans throughout Georgia, frequently working with Attorney Eugene E. Moore. He passed away in 1974.
James E. Salter studied law through LaSalle Extension University after graduating from Georgia State College (now Savannah State University). He passed away in 1981.
Roscoe E. Thomas, Jr. graduated from Morehouse College and received his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1947, after serving in World War II. One of his most significant cases was the desegregation of the City of Atlanta municipal golf courses, a case that was appealed to the United States Supreme Court. He also served as General Counsel to Citizens Trust Bank, Atlanta Life Insurance Company, and Mutual Federal Savings and Loan Association and was a founding partner of the Thomas Kennedy Sampson & Tompkins law firm. He passed away in 1996.
Austin T. Walden was known as the Dean of African American lawyers in Atlanta and was the organizing force of the Gate City Bar Association. He graduated from Atlanta University and the University of Michigan and began practicing law in 1912 in Macon, Georgia. After serving in World War I, he relocated his firm to Atlanta. A local and national leader with the NAACP, Walden led or was involved in many groundbreaking civil rights lawsuits in Georgia. He was also a savvy political strategist and co-founded the Atlanta Negro Voters League to register African Americans to vote. An active leader in the community, he held leadership positions in many business, civic, educational, religious, and social organizations. In 1964, after he retired from practicing law, he was appointed by Mayor Ivan Allen as a Pro Hac Judge for the Municipal Court of Atlanta, making him the first African American judge in Georgia since Reconstruction. He passed away in 1965.
Cheryl F. Turner-Past President-‘16