Bradley has a longstanding commitment to promoting diversity and equality, both inside and outside the firm. One of the most notable examples of this commitment begins well before the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1923, a young attorney named Douglas Arant joined one of Bradley’s predecessor firms then known as Tillman, Bradley and Baldwin. He had just received his law degree from Yale University, where he was graduated magna cum laude. He was elevated to partner in 1927 and spent his entire legal career with the firm, holding the position of senior managing partner for many years.
Over his long career with Bradley, Arant would be instrumental in molding the firm’s core values and character, as well as in significantly changing both the law community and the community at large in the state of Alabama.
It was 1947…
Major League Baseball had just broken the color barrier in professional baseball by adding Jackie Robinson, its first African American player. The legal field in Alabama was about to do the same.
Birmingham native Oscar W. Adams Jr. had just earned his law degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. At that time, African Americans weren’t allowed to attend law school in Alabama. Adams returned home to Birmingham to practice law, where he encountered obstacles in trying to take the Alabama bar exam.
Douglas Arant was chairman of the Character and Fitness Committee of the Alabama State Bar at the time, and the committee had approved Adams to take the exam. Unbeknownst to Arant, Adams was told he “had not been scheduled” to take it.
Arant lays down the law
When Arant found out, he immediately called the secretary of the Alabama Bar, who confirmed this fact. Arant made it clear that Adams was qualified and that he would be at the bar examination on Monday. He also made it clear that he would pursue the matter as far as necessary if Adams was not allowed to take the exam because of his race.
Adams took the bar exam that Monday, passed and began practicing law in Birmingham. A few years later, against some substantial opposition, Arant launched a campaign to get Adams admitted as the first African American member of the Birmingham Bar Association. With the firm standing behind him, Arant’s leadership and instinct for doing the right thing again carried the day.
Arant’s stand opens door for Adams’ history-changing career
The relationship between Arant and Adams had a profound effect on the Alabama legal community and its citizens. Adams went on to litigate complex civil rights and labor cases, and his clients included Martin Luther King Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Fred Shuttlesworth's Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, and the NAACP.
In 1980, Adams became the first African American to become a justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. In 1982, he became the first African American elected to statewide office in Alabama.
Their legacy lives on
In 2005, both Arant and Adams were posthumously inducted into the Alabama Lawyers Hall of Fame. In 2008, Adams was also inducted into the Birmingham Gallery of Distinguished Citizens. Honors, well deserved.
The courage, action and concern for justice that both these leaders exemplified is a source of great pride at Bradley. They are also integral to the core values that continue to direct our actions and define our culture today.