Our History

From its founding in August 1968 to the present, the Loren Miller Bar Association has grown from its 13 founders to its current membership of over 250 attorneys statewide. LMBA’s membership growth and organizational development has coincided with its successful creation and implementation of numerous community programs. On October 14, 1978 the Loren Miller Bar Club members officially changed the Club’s name to the Loren Miller Bar Association and incorporated LMBA as a nonprofit 501(c)(4) corporation. In 1997, LMBA created the Philip L. Burton Memorial Foundation as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation to administer LMBA’s scholarship fund for the University of Washington, Seattle University and Gonzaga University law students.

At its core, the LMBA is first and foremost a civil rights organization. From its infancy, LMBA adopted a vigorous platform of confronting institutionalized racism and the myriad social and economic disparities affecting the African-American community. In the 1960’s and 70’s, LMBA’s members confronted discrimination in employment, housing, education, public contracting and disparate treatment of African-American athletes at the University of Washington. In the 1980’s and 90’s, LMBA maintained its civil rights agenda, but expanded its sphere of influence within Washington’s majority bar and among other African-American attorneys nationwide. Examples of this can be seen in LMBA’s screening of judicial candidates for the bench, its co-founding of the Northwest Minority Job Fair, its member representation on Washington State Bar Association and King County Bar Association standing committees, and its hosting of the National Bar Associations annual conventions in 1984 and 1994. Over the past 30 years, LMBA has spearheaded or been intimately involved with a number of significant historical events.

Historically, the LMBA has provided leadership by example to the African-American community and, as the focal point of Washington’s African-American attorneys, is poised to continue the promotion of civil rights and the professional development, social and economic well being, and professional interests of its current and potential members into the 21st Century.

 

A Few Past Successes

Ensuring Equal Treatment of African-American Athletes at the University

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, African-American athletes on the University’s football team alleged that they were being discriminated against because their ability to compete for and play positions on the team was limited by the coaching staffs designation of certain positions for white players only. LMBA members represented the athletes who challenged the University’s discriminatory practices. As a result, the University changed its coaching regime, hired African-American administrators in the Athletic Department, and hired African-American football coaches to ensure that the African-American athletes were able to compete for positions that were previously closed.

Tipping the Balance of the 1972 Washington Supreme Court Race Between Wright and Shorett

King County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Shorett struck down the University’s Law School affirmative action program in De Funis v. Odegaard, 82 Wn.2d 111973), and in the wake of his decision ran for election to the Washington Supreme Court. Fearing the long-term detrimental effects of a racially insensitive Court, LMBA members successfully mobilized a grassroots campaign throughout the Washington African-American community in favor of Judge Shorett’s opponent, Charles Wright, who narrowly won the election by 5,000 votes. LMBA’s efforts significantly raised the organization’s credibility within the majority bar and lead to future judicial candidates actively seeking LMBA’s endorsement.

Preserving the City of Seattle’s Selective Certification/ Affirmative Action Program for Underrepresented Women and Minorities in the Seattle Fire Department

In 1976, Claude Harris (who later became Seattle’s first African-American Fire Chief) was chosen to be a Battalion Chief for the Seattle Fire Department through the City’s selective certification/affirmative action program for underrepresented women and minorities (“Program”). His selection and the Program were challenged by white firefighters in a reverse discrimination lawsuit filed against the City. LMBA members intervened on behalf of Battalion Chief Harris and, in concert with the City’s attorneys, successfully tried the case, then won the appeal preserving the Program in Maehren v. City of Seattle, 92 Wn.2d 480 (1979), cert. denied, 452 U.S. 938 (1981).

Obtaining Financial Assistance from the Bar for African-American Law Students

In the mid-1970’s, the King County Bar Foundation and the then King County Bar President, Bill Gates, Jr., were encouraged by LMBA to increase the number of minority lawyers in the Washington Bar by creating minority scholarships, initially for students at the University of Washington and later for students at the other law schools.

Creating Employment Opportunities for African-American Law Students Through the Northwest Minority Job Fair

In the 1980’s, LMBA sought to change the face of Seattle’s large corporate law firms where there was a dearth of African-American attorneys and persistent claims of unavailable qualified applicants. LMBA co-founded the Job Fair to allow minority students the opportunity to showcase their talents for firms that were genuinely in search of qualified applicants.

In the 1980’s, LMBA sought to change the face of Seattle’s large corporate law firms where there was a dearth of African-American attorneys and persistent claims of unavailable qualified applicants. LMBA co-founded the Job Fair to allow minority students the opportunity to showcase their talents for firms that were genuinely in search of qualified applicants.

 

Reaching Across the State to Spokane’s African-American Community and Gonzaga University’s Law Students

In 1997, LMBA held its first general meeting in Spokane, Washington, at Gonzaga University’s law school. The original purpose of the meeting was to show LMBA support for Gonzaga’s African-American law students who were the victims of race-hate mail and threats by white supremacist or white Gonzaga law students who were sympathetic to the white supremacist cause. The meeting developed into a community forum where African-American citizens from Spokane shared their concerns about the racial environment in the city and, for the first time, had an African-American attorney audience to address those issues.

Historically, the LMBA has provided leadership by example to the African-American community and, as the focal point of Washington’s African-American attorneys, is poised to continue the promotion of civil rights and the professional development, social and economic well being, and professional interests of its current and potential members into the 21st Century.

 

Providing Instruction to African-American Law Students Studying for the Washington State Bar Examination

In the mid-1970’s, LMBA started a program designed to raise the bar passage rate for African-American students taking the Washington bar examination. The program involved writing exercises and coaching on prior examination questions similar to modern-day bar review courses. The program is credited with the bar admission of numerous LMBA members.

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