HISTORY & MISSION
1. To enhance the role and number of Black attorneys in the state;
2. To focus attention on legal, political and social issues which affect members of Black community, and to address those issues as a unified body;
3. To provide a vehicle for interaction between Crawford members and members of other Black business and professional organizations;
4. To establish ready lines of communication and affiliations with other local and national bar associations;
5. To undertake such programs, activities and projects in promotion of Crawford’s long-standing goals as are legally permissible under the laws of the State of Connecticut.
A small group of Black lawyers practicing in the Greater Hartford area in Connecticut met to discuss the formation of an organization of Black people in the legal profession. In the months following, the group expanded to include law students who joined the group, and together the lawyers and students began to build the foundation for a legal association that would better serve the needs of people of color. The group hoped that the organization would be a prominent voice on issues affecting Black people generally, including those in the legal profession.
The Greater Hartford Black Law Society, as it would come to be called, had its first official meeting. A prevalent topic of discussion at that first meeting was the low number of Black attorneys in Connecticut. An informal survey revealed that less than 5% of attorneys admitted to practice in Connecticut in 1977 were Black and, further, that Blacks had a disproportionately low bar passage rate. Recognizing that these dismal statistics were unacceptable, the Society members determined that one of its primary goals would be to work towards improving the numbers on both fronts.
The Society adopted bylaws and elected its first officers: Joseph A. Moniz, President; Lewis K. Robinson, Jr., Vice President; Frank Borges, Secretary; and Barbara Jackson, Treasurer. The Society officially incorporated and changed its name to the George W. Crawford Law Association, Inc. (“Crawford”), in honor of George W. Crawford, who graduated in 1903 as Yale University School of Law’s second Black graduate. Mr. Crawford, who was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, attended Tuskegee Institute and Talladega College before matriculating to the Yale Law School and graduating with honors and the prestigious Townsend Oration Award. Throughout his nearly 69-year legal career, Mr. Crawford was an outstanding advocate and public servant, and was New Haven Corporation Counsel from 1954 to 1962. Mr. Crawford’s creed was, “Do it right – excellence.”
Crawford’s early activism included providing case notes and opinions on seminal civil rights and affirmative action cases, such as Washington v. Davis (1976) and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), as well as organizing reactions to critically important legal and political issues facing the Black community, including racial violence and injustice. Crawford continues to provide a vehicle for its members to voice opinions and engage in meaningful, collective action on issues affecting Black attorneys and the communities we serve. Our work includes developing partnerships with private and public sector employers, a myriad of non-profit entities, educational institutions and student groups. Throughout its history, Crawford has worked diligently to increase the number of Black judges, attorneys and other professionals in leadership positions critical to the betterment of Connecticut.
Crawford changed its name to the George W. Crawford Black Bar Association in an effort to make the organization’s purpose and identity more visible to newcomers to the State and the legal profession. Crawford remains committed to the original mission and purposes of its founding members.
Thomas McNeill, Jr.
John Rose, Jr.
Bessie Bennett (deceased)
John Rose, Jr.
Priscilla Greene (deceased)
Eyvonne Parker Bair
Andrea Barton Reeves
Robert Harrison III
Vanessa Roberts Avery
Alexis Smith (formerly Highsmith)
Fallon DePina Banks