History of the Mobile Bar Association
The Mobile Bar Association was incorporated by filing its Declaration of Incorporation on April 12, 1869 pursuant to the Revised Code of Alabama of 1867, with a paid in capital of $5,000.00, and with a capitalization of $10,000.00 authorized. Its stated object was:
“The Establishment of a Law Library in the City of Mobile and the increase of professional learning and the cultivation of friendly intercourse among the members of the Bar of Mobile.”
The stock of the corporation was held by its members, who were thirty-two in number, in varying numbers of shares, for which stock certificates were issued.
The incorporators and stockholders were as follows:
There is little doubt that the Bar Association existed as an unincorporated association long prior to its initial incorporation, but no records of this have been found.
In 1903, there was another incorporation of the Mobile Bar Association. The new incorporation of the Association was in June, 1903, when its Declaration of Incorporation was filed. This re-incorporation was effected under the Code of Alabama of 1897, covering “Social and literary societies.” The new corporation was a no stock non-profit corporation, and its stated object and purposes were somewhat more lofty than those of the earlier corporation. The Declaration of Incorporation recites:
“That the object and purposes of the Society are to cultivate the science of Jurisprudence, to promote and encourage reform in the law, to increase its usefulness in promoting the due complete administration of Justice, to elevate the legal profession to the highest possible standing of learning, integrity, morality, dignity and courtesy, to regulate its practice, and to cherish the spirit of brotherhood and social intercourse among its members, and to establish and maintain for the free use and convenience of its members, a law library.”
The 1903 incorporation papers were signed by “Jos. C. Rich, First Vice-President and acting President, in absence from the State of Daniel P. Bestor, President, James W. Gray, Second Vice-President, William Cowley, Secretary-Treasurer.” The 1903 incorporation papers show that the corporation then had sixty-five members as compared with the thirty-two members who comprised the 1869 corporation.
There were no office buildings, as such, in Mobile (the Van Antwerp Building, erected in 1906, was one of the first such buildings), and it is interesting to note the addresses of the lawyers, almost all of whom had upstairs offices either on Royal Street or down the streets east of Royal, namely, St. Michael, St. Francis and Conti Streets.
Until 1978 the Bar Association had no quarters of its own, though the 1905 City Directory lists the Mobile Bar Association, County Court House (D. P. Bestor, President, Wm. S. Cowley, Secretary-Treasurer), the 1906 Directory lists it at 58 North Royal (Harry Pillans, President, Robt. E. Gordon, Secretary-Treasurer), and the 1908 Directory lists it at 74 St. Michael Street (E. M. Robinson, President, R. E. Gordon, Secretary-Treasurer). In many of the old directories it is not listed at all.
It will be seen, from the above quoted excerpts from the Bar’s charters, that one of the prime concerns of the Mobile Bar was the creation and maintenance of a Law Library. At least since 1870 the local Bar has had its Law Library, however rudimentary it may at first have been. In an old Daily Journal kept by Peter Hamilton, who was President of the Bar in 1870, I find these notations:
“December 10, 1870 – Bar Association & Franklin Society. These organizations have made arrangement whereby the former is to move its library and take up its future abode in the building of the latter, at the corner of St. Francis and conception Streets.”
“December 15, 1870 – Franklin Society & Bar Association. The library of the Bar Association has been removed to Hall of Franklin Society and we hope a great deal has been secured to both Societies by the change.”
In some old manuscripts of J. Gaillard Hamilton, a notation was found:
“My father and his brother donated $500.00 worth of law books to the Mobile Bar Library of about that period (1870) and other lawyers also made gifts of law books.”
The Bar had no headquarters of its own until 1981 when under the leadership of W. Boyd Reeves, President, the Levert Office was leased from the Mobile County Commission . A very important historical structure in Mobile, erected during the period of 1856-59, it served as a medical office for almost one hundred years. In March, 1982, Mylan Engel, President of the Mobile Bar Association, dedicated the newly renovated structure as permanent headquarters for its approximately 450 members.
From these beginnings, the Mobile Bar Association has grown to a membership in excess of 1,300 in number.