1874

The Chicago Bar Association founded in 1874 was the fourth major metropolitan bar association in the United States. The Philadelphia Bar Association was founded in 1802; the Boston Bar Association was founded in 1861; and the Association of the City of New York was founded in 1870.

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Constitution and Bylaws

The CBA’s Constitution and Bylaws were written by Lyman Trumbull and Thomas Hoyne.

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Inaugural Committees

At its organization, the CBA established the following committees: Grievance, Amendment of the Law, Judiciary and Legal Education. A nine-member Executive Committee and a nine-member Admissions Committee were also established.

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William Goudy

William C. Goudy, the CBA's First President, served as an Illinois State Senator, as a state’s attorney in downstate counties, and was an experienced lawyer with a solid record of practice in the local courts and in the Illinois Supreme Court and United States Supreme Court.

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William C. Goudy Academy

The William C. Goudy Academy (pre-K through 6th grade) in Chicago was named after President Goudy.

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Myra Bradwell

Myra Bradwell, founder and publisher of the Chicago Legal News in 1868, was a steadfast advocate for the formation of a Chicago Bar Association devoted to: elevating and educating the legal profession, making laws better, aiding judges in the administration of justice, and serving the public. Bradwell was a strong and constant advocate for Equal Rights for Women and for the Admission of Women to the Bar of Illinois.

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First Members

Following Chicago’s Great Fire in October 1871, interest in forming a Bar Association of Chicago Lawyers gained momentum among many of Chicago’s most prominent lawyers. Charter CBA members included: William C. Goudy, Lyman Trumball, Thomas Hoyne, Melvin Weston Fuller, Robert Todd Lincoln, Stephen Strong Gregory, William Perkins Black and others totaling 164.

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Lyman Trumball

CBA Charter Member Lyman Trumbull was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1855 and was a strong opponent of slavery. Mr. Trumball was a leading sponsor of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery, the wartime confiscation acts, and the 1866 Civil Rights Act - - America’s first piece of legislation pledging equality to all black citizens. Prior to his election to the United States Senate in 1855, Mr. Trumbull served as a member of the Illinois Supreme Court from 1848-1853. Mr. Trumbull was an unsuccessful candidate for the presidential nomination at the 1872 Republican Convention. He left the Senate in 1973 and established his law practice in Chicago.

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Thomas Hoyne

Past President Thomas Hoyne was prominent in civic affairs including: President of the Young Men's Christian Association, cooperating with Stephen A. Douglas in establishing and sustaining the first University of Chicago (1856) and held a variety of public offices: City Clerk; U.S. District Attorney; federal marshal, and acting mayor. In writing about Mr. Hoyne, Wendal Wilkie said he is " thoroughly respected, not only as a lawyer but as a citizen, whose life was a model which every young man of Chicago can safely study and imitate with profit."

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U.S. Supreme Court

During its history, three CBA members served on the United States Supreme Court – Melvin Weston Fuller and founding charter CBA member was nominated by President Garfield and served as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1888-1910; Arthur Joseph Goldberg was nominated by President John F. Kennedy to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 and served on the high court until 1965. Justice Goldberg resigned from the Supreme Court upon his nomination by President Lyndon Baines Johnson to become the 6th U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. John Paul Stevens was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford in 1975 and served on the High Court until his retirement in 2010. Justice Stevens was the third longest serving justice in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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U.S. Supreme Court

Chief U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Charter CBA Member, Melvin Weston Fuller, granted the right to Sunday openings for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

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CBA and ABA Presidents

3 CBA Presidents have served as President of the American Bar Association: Stephen Strong Gregory served as CBA President in 1900, ISBA President in 1904, and ABA President in 1911. Mr. Strong was the only CBA president to have served as President of the ISBA and ABA. Justin A. Stanley served as CBA President in 1967 and ABA President in 1976; and Laurel G. Bellows served as CBA President in 1991 and ABA President in 2012. 

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Executive Directors

The CBA’s first Executive Secretary (Director) was Clarence Denning who was employed by the Association in 1902 and appointed Executive Secretary from 1923-1952. Other Executive Directors and years served include: Richard Cain 1952-1964; Jacques G. Fuller 1965-1973; John F. McBride 1974-1985, who later became an Associate Cook County Judge; Terrence M. Murphy 1985-2020; and Elizabeth (Beth) McMeen 2020 to the present.

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Municipal Court

The Association was a strong advocate with the Civic Federation, Union League Club, Standard Club, City Club and numerous other civic and business organizations for the establishment of a Municipal Court for Chicago. In 1904, the Illinois General Assembly adopted an amendment calling for the establishment of a Municipal Court in Chicago and in 1907 the act was passed.

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Clarence Darrow

Famed criminal trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow, was a longstanding CBA member and a frequent user of the Association’s law library.

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A Growing Profession

Chicago reaches 4,000 practicing attorneys in December 1899.

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Mary Margaret Bartelme

In 1923, Mary Margaret Bartelme became the first woman ever to be elected a judge in Illinois. Judge Bartelme served for ten years as a Circuit Court Judge in the Juvenile Court.

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World War II

During World War II, more than 1,000 members responded to a call from the Association's President, Harry N. Gottlieb, for volunteers to work from 4:00 p.m. to midnight in the City's war plants and to serve on draft boards.

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Adlai E. Stevenson

Adlai E. Stevenson chaired the Association's Civil Rights Committee in 1939 and was elected Governor of Illinois in 1948. Mr. Stevenson served as the Chief U.S. Delegate to the United Nations from 1961-1965. Stevenson stressed the importance of the CBA's role in protecting civil liberties and public education and said: "People tend to favor free speech for themselves but not for the other fellow, without realizing their own free speech is unsafe unless it is assured to others."

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Joint Civic Committee on Elections

In 1940, the CBA, the League of Women Voters, the Union League Club and ten other civic organizations formed the nonpartisan Joint Civic Committee on Elections. More than 5,000 volunteers were organized with the approval of Circuit Court Judge Edmund K. Jarecki to conduct a canvas of a small number of Chicago wards. The canvas was successful in removing over 100,000 names of ineligible voters who were deceased, non-existent or had moved. Volunteer poll watchers in the November election constituted one of the largest of its kind in the city's history.

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Earl Burrus Dickerson

Earl Burrus Dickerson led the legal team in the United States Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Hansbury v. Lee (1940) which overturned the Woodlawn Property Owners Association’s racially restrictive housing covenants against black homeowners.

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Earl Burrus Dickerson

In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Earl Burrus Dickerson to the newly created Fair Employment Practices Committee. Mr. Dickerson also served as Chairman and President of Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company and was a founding member of the American Legion; Mr. Dickerson also served as Alderman of Chicago's 2nd Ward in 1939-1943 and as President of Chicago's Urban league in 1939-40.

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Committee on Constitutional Revision

In 1946-47, Samuel W. Witwer was appointed by President Erwin W. Roemer as chair of the Association's Committee on Constitutional Revision. The following members were appointed to the new committee: Walter V. Schaefer, Adlai E. Stevenson, Barnet Hodes, Jacob Arvey, Stephen A. Mitchell, Otto Kerner, Walter Cummings, Jr., and Wayland B. Cedarquist. In 1950-51, Mr. Witwar was appointed to chair the newly formed Statewide Illinois Committee for Constitutional Revision (ICCR). The CBA continued to work closely with Mr. Witwer and Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson and were successful in getting 67% of the voters to approve the "Gateway Amendment."

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Odas Nicholson

In 1947, Odas Nicholson was the first Black woman to graduate from DePaul University’s College of Law. Ms. Nicholson was active in many committees and served as a member of the CBA’s Board of Managers from 1980-1982. Ms. Nicholson was elected a Circuit Court Judge and served from 1990-1994 and was the first Black woman to serve as President of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois.

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Chicago Bar Foundation

The first President of The Chicago Bar Foundation was Lawrence C. Mills (1948-1958) and the first contributor to the CBF was Floyd E. Thompson who served as CBA president in 1943. Doris Bernstein served as the first part-time Executive Director of The Chicago Bar Foundation and Elizabeth (Betsy) Densmore served as the Foundation’s first full-time Executive Director.

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First Black United Nationals Delegate

In 1950, Edith Spurlock Sampson was the first Black United States delegate to the United Nations. Mrs. Sampson was also appointed a U.S. delegate to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in 1962 became the first African American female judge in the United States when she was elected an Associate Judge in Chicago's Municipal Court.

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Chicago Mayors and CBA Members

Father and son Mayors of Chicago and members were Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley. Richard J. Daley served as Chicago Mayor from 1953-1976 and Richard M. Daley served as Mayor from 1989-2011.

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Joint Resolution with ISBA

In 1954, the CBA and ISBA issued a joint resolution which read in pertinent part: "In general, Americans should have an enforceable right to speak freely over the telephone. Although, the right to be secure from the introduction of wiretap evidence in court is directly valuable only to those whom the government may prosecute, the right not to be spied on is valuable to all. No government, however benign, should invade the right to privacy which is one of the factors making American citizenship so valuable."

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Leon M. Despres

Leon M. Despres was a lifelong CBA member who served as a Chicago Alderman (1955-1975), and was an author and a dedicated advocate for Civil Rights and Open Housing.

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Support for Joint Resolution

U.S. District Court Judge Julius J. Hoffman expressed support for the CBA/ISBA joint resolution in an article he wrote for the ABA Journal. "Even if we are in imminent danger, we could find some better defense than the abandonment of our rights. To give them up in order to make it easier to catch those who threaten them would be like robbing a man of his valuables today in order to prevent a possible thief from stealing them at a later time." Judge Hoffman presided over the famous Chicago Seven Conspiracy Trial in 1969 in Chicago’s District Court.

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Unauthorized Practice Litigation

William S. Kaplan and Richard L. Kahn (1957) led the Association's unauthorized practice litigation against prominent Chicago real estate firm, Quinlan and Tyson. Ultimately, the Illinois Supreme Court held that real estate brokers could prepare a purchase-sale contract but that a lawyer would have to be retained for the closing of the transaction.

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CBA Member Newton Minow

In 1961, Newton Minow, a lifelong CBA member and Sidley partner, was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to serve as the First Chair of the Federal Communications Commission.  Mr. Minow chaired the FCC from 1961-63 and coined, in one of his many speeches, the now famous phrase "...television is a vast wasteland." 

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Municipal Court of Chicago

The CBA was a strong advocate with the Civic Federation, Union League Club, Standard Club, City Club and numerous other civic and business organizations for the establishment of a Municipal Court for Chicago. In 1904, the Illinois General Assembly adopted an amendment calling for the establishment of a Municipal Court in Chicago and in 1907 the act was passed.

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Judicial Reform

CBA Presidents R. Newton Rooks (1962) and his successor Walter H. Moses (1963) led the Association's efforts for Judicial Reform and both worked tirelessly for the passage of the "Judicial Article" amendment, which was approved by 57% of voters in the general election. The Judicial Article (1964) established a unified court system, with judges re-elected on their records without party labels; Supreme Court Justices -- three elected from Cook County and four elected from downstate; a full-time Appellate Court; and creation of the Illinois Courts Commission which was empowered to discipline sitting judges for cause.

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Notable Board Member: Jewell Stradford Lafontant-Manarious

Jewell Stradford Lafontant-Mankarious served on the Board of Managers from 1962-1964 and was the first woman to graduate from the University of Chicago Law School (1946); the first Black woman to be named Assistant United States Attorney; and was the first Woman Deputy Solicitor General of the United States. Mrs. Lafontant-Mankarious served as Deputy Solicitor General in the administration of President George H. W. Bush.

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Constitutional Study

In 1968, Peter Tomei, Chair of the Association’s Constitutional Study Committee, published an influential article in the CBA Record detailing the defects of Illinois’ 1920-22 Constitutional Convention and was among the first to urge steps to ensure an objective convention which included dropping of party labels in the election of delegates and legislation requiring lobbyists at the convention to disclose their identities and the amounts of money they were spending. Samuel W. Witwer, Chair of the Illinois Committee for Constitutional Revision, agreed with Tomei’s recommendations and a primary to elect the convention’s delegates was held on November 18, 1969.

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Notable Board Member: Julian B. Wilkins

Julian B. Wilkins served on the Board of Managers from 1965-67 and as Librarian (an officer position) on the Executive Committee 1972-1974. Mr. Wilkins was the son of J. Ernest Wilkins, Sr. who was appointed by President Eisenhower to serve as Undersecretary of Labor for International Labor Affairs 1954-57 and in 1957 was the first Black man appointed to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

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Merit Selection of Judges

In January 1970, CBA President Frank Greenberg and ISBA President Henry Pitts announced joint support for a new plan for the appointment of Illinois’ judges.

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Proposition 2B

In December 1970, CBA Member Chester T. Kamin led the lawyers for Proposition 2B campaign regarding merit selection of judges which won in Cook County but was lost statewide by a margin of approximately 151,000 votes.

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Proposition 2B - part 2

Wayland B. Cedarquist, Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judicial Article, and Wayne W. Whalen, longtime members, supported the merit plan (Proposition 2B).

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Greenberg Commission

In 1969, John Paul Stevens and a core group of CBA young lawyers led the investigation for a Five Member Commission, (the Greenberg Commission) appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court, to investigate charges of misconduct against two Illinois Supreme Court Justices, Roy J. Solfisburg, Jr. and Ray I. Klingbiel. The investigation, hearings and final report confirmed the charges of misconduct and recommended the immediate resignation of the two justices. Both resigned from the Illinois Supreme Court on August 2, 1969.

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Notable Board Member:  Hon. Edward Toles

Hon. Edward Toles served on the Board of Managers from 1969-71 and in 1961 was the first black appointed to serve as a federal Bankruptcy Judge in Chicago.

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Judge Abner J. Mikva

Abner J. Mikva served in all three branches of government. Mr. Mikva was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the 2nd Congressional District (1969-1973) and from the 10th Congressional District (1975-1979). He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia where he served as Chief Judge (1979-1994). Mr. Mikva served as White House Counsel to President Bill Clinton (1994-1995). Judge Mikva received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2014.

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Justice Michael Bilandic

Michael A. Bilandic was a lifelong CBA member who served as a Chicago Alderman from 1969 until 1976 when he became Mayor of Chicago, serving until 1979. From 1994-1997, he served as the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

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Judicial Inquiry Board

The Nine Member Judicial Inquiry Board (JIB) comprised of five non-lawyers and four lawyers was approved by voters in 1970. The JIB began operations on July 1, 1971. Governor Ogilvie appointed past President Frank Greenberg and Wayne Whalen to the new board. Milton Friedman, a 1976 Nobel Laureate, was an American Economist and Statistician, delivered a major speech entitled: "Special Interest and The Law" to members at a Quarter Annual Meeting in 1970. Professor Friedman was a faculty member of the University of Chicago since 1946 and was a visiting Fulbright lecturer in Economics at Cambridge University, England in 1953-1954.

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Young Lawyers Section Projects

Young Lawyers Section Projects resulted in the founding of a number of spin-off organizations including: (a) The "YLS Creative City Committee" which later became the "Lawyers for the Creative Arts;" (b) The Legal Clinic at DePaul Law School was initially established to serve lower middle income people; (c) The Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR) was established by the YLS in 1979 and was initially called Neighborhood Justice of Chicago; expansion of services necessitated a name change in 1991 to the “Center for Conflict Resolution.” CCR has become an indispensable resource for the Circuit Court; and (d) The YLS partnered with the ABA in 2009 to create the three-part video series entitled: "Serving our Seniors.”

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YLS Law and Debate Club

The YLS' "Law & Debate Club" provides presentations to students from approximately 100 Chicago area high schools who are interested in learning more about careers in the law.

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@theBar Podcast

This national podcast is co-hosted by Jonathan Amarilio and co-hosted by Trisha Rich, Maggie Mendenhall Casey, and Jennifer Byrne.  Notable guests have included Dan Webb to discuss his prosecution of Jussie Smollet; Amanda Knox and her defense attorneys; Markus Funk, one of the prosecutors from the “Family Secrets” trial; the prosecutor and defendant from the Trial of the Chicago 7; Brian Cuban, attorney and brother of Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur Mark Cuban; and many more.

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Member and U.S. Attorney General

Edward Levi served as United States Attorney General in 1974 and was a lifelong and active CBA member. Mr. Levi also served as Dean of the University of Chicago Law School and President of the University of Chicago.

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YLS Recognition

The YLS has received the ABA's highest award for "Best Young Lawyers Section" for 20 years and has received the ABA Award for Excellence for Best Public Service Projects for 28 years.

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Professor Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman, a 1976 Nobel Laureate, was an American Economist and Statistician, delivered a major speech entitled: "Special Interest and The Law" to members at a Quarter Annual Meeting in 1970. Professor Friedman was a faculty member of the University of Chicago since 1946 and was a visiting Fulbright lecturer in Economics at Cambridge University, England in 1953-1954.

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CBA Member Recognition: Hon. R. Eugene Pincham

R. Eugene Pincham was an extraordinary lawyer, longstanding CBA member, and highly respected by all. Judge Pincham was a Human Rights Activist; a Circuit Court Judge from 1976 until his appointment to the Illinois Appellate Court in 1984. In 1986, Judge Pincham won election to the Illinois Appellate Court and served in that capacity until 1989.

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CBA Member Recognition: James Caldwell

James Caldwell served as the CBA’s first Black Treasurer from 1976-78.

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CBA Women Presidents

Esther R. Rothstein (1977) served as the first women president of the Association. Other women who served as CBA President include: Laurel G. Bellows (1992); Patricia C. Bobb (1998); Jennifer T. Nijman (2003); Joy V. Cunningham (2005); Anita Alvarez (2010); Terri Mascherin (2011); Aurora Abella-Austriaco (2013); Patricia Brown Holmes (2016); Maryam Ahmad (2021) and E. Lynn Grayson (2022).

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Member Recognition: Earl Langdon Neal

Earl Langdon Neal was a lifelong CBA member and served on the Board of Managers from 1982-1984. Mr. Neal was elected President of the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees in 1975 and was the first African American Trustee of a major university in the United States. Mr. Neal was the recipient of many awards including the Justice John Paul Stevens Award.

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Member Recognition:  Cornelius E. Toole

Cornelius E. Toole, a famous Chicago Civil Rights lawyer, served on the Board of Managers from 1981-1983. Mr. Toole was a great grandson to J.B. Stradford and Jewell LaFontant. Mr. Toole participated in a 1996 event at the Greenwood Cultural Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma, which cleared his great grandfather's name 75 years after the 1921 Tulsa massacre. J. B. Stradford was named a fugitive in 1921 and the charges against him weren't dropped until Cornelius intervened on his behalf.

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321 S. Plymouth Court

The Association co-developed The Chicago Bar Association Building, 321 S. Plymouth Court with Chicago developers, Lee Miglin and J. Paul Beitler. Internationally acclaimed Chicago architect, Stanley Tigerman designed the Association’s new building.

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First Reception at 321 S. Plymouth Court

Gordon B. Nash, Jr. was president when the Association moved into its new building in August 1990. The evening of the move the CBA hosted an opening reception for 700 lawyers and judges who were attending the American Bar Association’s annual meeting.

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Special Guest:  Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey presented her National Child Protection Act during the Association’s “Justice for Youth Week” to more than 1,000 members at an Association Luncheon presided over by CBA President Laurel G. Bellows on October 30, 1991, at the Palmer House Hilton. The Act was signed into law by President Clinton in 1993.

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Member Recognition:  Judge Jacqueline P. Cox

Judge Jacqueline P. Cox is the longest serving member of the CBA's Board of Managers. Judge Cox served as a member of the Board of Managers from 1997-1999 and served as Secretary of the Association from 1999-2003. Judge Cox was appointed to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2003.

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World City Bar Leaders

The CBA is a member of the World City Bar Leaders originally founded in 2000 by the Paris Bar and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. The CBA has attended meetings of the World City Bar Leaders since 2001. In addition to the City Bar of New York, the Chicago Bar, the Philadelphia Bar, the Los Angeles County Bar, members of the World City Bar Leaders include: Paris, London, Toyko, Rome, Milan, Montreal, Beijing, Shanghai, Frankfurt, Warsaw, and Mexico City.

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Member Recognition: Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz

United States District Court Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz (1905-2001) was a lifelong CBA member and Chicago icon. Judge Marovitz worked as an Assistant Cook County State's Attorney from 1927-1933. He was engaged in private practice for several years and became close friends with Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Durante. Judge Marovitz was elected the first Jewish state senator in 1938 and sponsored the first fair housing bill in the Legislature. Judge Marovitz served in the Marine Corps during World War II, was elected judge of the Superior Court in 1950 and served as chief justice of the Criminal Court of Cook County from 1958-59. President John F. Kennedy appointed Judge Marovitz to the U.S. District Court in 1963. Judge Marovitz donated the busts of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to the CBA, which are located in the lobby on both sides of the fireplace.

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Address

321 S Plymouth Ct
Chicago, IL 60604, US

About us

Founded in 1874, the Chicago Bar Association is celebrating 150 years of maintaining the honor and dignity of the legal profession, cultivating relationships between members, and promoting the administration of justice and the public good. One of the oldest and most active metropolitan bar associations in the United States, the Chicago Bar Association has more than 17,000 members, including attorneys from every practice area and the judiciary, as well as law students. Through CLE offerings, mentorship, and pro-bono projects, the Association provides resources and opportunities for attorneys of all ages, equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to navigate the modern practice of law.