History of the MCBA

The Marion County Bar Association was originally founded in 1925 as the Marion County Lawyers’ Club. On October 27, 1942, the name was changed to the Marion County Bar Association or MCBA.  The Marion County Bar Association was established as a direct result of exclusionary policies practiced by white contemporary associations.

MCBA 1980-81 RosterPrior to 1900 there were very few Black lawyers practicing in the Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana vicinity. Our records show that the first Black Attorney admitted to the bar in Indianapolis was James T.V. Hill.  Attorney Hill practiced law from 1882 to 1928 and was active in civic affairs.  History also shows that James H. Lott began a legal practice and was a civic leader in the 1890’s.

Injustices toward minorities in the early 1900’s were at a high and unsavory peak. Nevertheless; in 1909 the State of Indiana witnessed the birth of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National Urban League. Between 1909 and 1912 several noted personalities from the Black Communities distinguished themselves. In 1910, Robert L. Brokenburr, a young law graduate for Howard University in Washington D.C., was admitted to the Indiana Bar. At the same time, a dignified young lady named Madame C. J. Walker, set up headquarters in Indianapolis. Madame Walker was destined to revolutionize the cosmetic industry. Madame Walker retained the legal services of Attorney Freeman B. Ransom and he served the Walker Company for some thirty-five (35) years as General Manager and legal counsel.

Between 1915 and 1939 a number of Black Lawyers began practice in Indianapolis and made contributions, which are intricately woven into the history of this State and Nation. Among them were: W.S. Henry, William Bean, H.R. Wilson Jr., H.F. Perry, John Brawdus, J.K. Brown, Robert L. Bailey, Robert Lee Brokenburr, Freeman B. Ransome, James B. Beatty, Frank Beckwith, W.W. Hyde, Cary D. Jacobs, J.B.A. Smith, E. Lewis Moore, A.C. Terrence, C.L. Johnson, Howard R. Hooper, Henry J. Richardson, and Forrest Littlejohn.

Until 1952, the American Bar Association, ABA, considered the preeminent bar association, would not accept African-American lawyers into its membership.  In response to this refusal of acceptance a group of distinguished African-American lawyers created the National Bar Association, NBA, in 1925.  The NBA founded State and Local organizations, held seminars, symposiums, and discussions concerning common problems in the field of law.  MCBA is and has been a proud affiliate of the NBA for several decades.