Through the Years With the GCBA
A Centennial Historical Overview
1897- 1997 (with updates through 2006)
George H. Durand had already led a full and interesting life before the time that he is credited with founding the Genesee County Bar Association. Durand was Alderman and Mayor of Flint, a Michigan Supreme Court Justice, a Congressman and president of the Michigan Bar. In spite of humble beginnings, he was a wealthy and well known man, with a handsome mansion near the site of Vogt's Flower Shop on Garland Street in Flint. He had been appointed by President Cleveland as special prosecutor trying several well-known opium smuggling cases on the west coast. The City of Durand is named for him.
George H. Durand settled into the practice of law in his home town and saw a need for the lawyers of the county to assemble from time to time to discuss issues and ideas common to the courts and to attorneys. Accordingly, the lawyers of the time began regular meetings, a set of bylaws was drawn, and the Genesee County Bar Association was founded in 1897 with Durand as its first President.
Records of the early days of the GCBA are not known, and only a few articles gleaned from the general news of the day give us a picture of the bar at the turn of the century. Durand's son, Charles, was also a charter member of the GCBA. He practiced law in the area for over 50 years, beginning a tradition of "family practice" in the GCBA that continues to this day.
Among other early Genesee County practitioners of note were John Carton, William Fenton, and Sumner Howard.
John Carton studied law while serving as county clerk and clerk of the Circuit Court. He was a partner of George Durand from 1884-1892, until Durand went to the Supreme Court. Carton was City Attorney, a state representative and President of the State's Constitutional Convention in 1907-1908. Carton is noted primarily as a friend and advisor to Billy Durant. He played an important role in the founding of General Motors as the attorney for Durant, Buick, and was Vice President of C.S. Mott's Weston-Mott Company.
Upon the death of his mentor, George Durand, Carton wrote an eloquent and moving tribute to his late law partner, a tribute which he read to the Supreme Court and which serves as a brief biography of Durand.
William M. Fenton was born in 1808. He studied law while engaged in the mercantile business and was admitted to the bar in 1842. Fenton served in the Michigan State Senate and as Lt. Governor. He is credited with bringing Michigan School for the Deaf (now Deaf and Blind) to Flint, and with founding the town of Fenton. Of greater importance for the GCBA, he was the law teacher of both George Durand and Sumner Howard.
Fenton served in the Civil War, raising a company known as the Fenton Light Guards, and was commissioned a colonel. After the war he returned to the practice of law in Flint, and built "the Fenton Block" of buildings, including the city's first theater, on the site of what is now the parking lot north of the Mott Foundation Building. He died in 1871 from injuries sustained in an accident related to his service as a volunteer fireman.
Sumner Howard was one of the first European settlers in Flint and studied law under Colonel Fenton. His reputation as a criminal lawyer was legendary, and he was elected Prosecutor in 1858, and again following his service in the Civil War.
Howard was appointed U.S. District Attorney of Utah by President Grant. He successfully convicted a Mormon leader who had led an attack against new settlers in the region he felt had been reserved for Mormons. Howard was set to prosecute Brigham Young on similar charges when Young died. Howard then returned to Flint and was elected to the House of Representatives and became Speaker of the House. President Arthur appointed him Chief Justice of Arizona, a position he held for four years before returning to Flint to practice law and to farm until his death in 1890.
To put some of these events and lives in perspective, it should be noted that Michigan became a state in 1837 and the County was formed in 1836. The first courthouse and jail were constructed in 1839 on land deeded by John Todd to John Beech according to the territorial legislature. Beech in turn, donated the land for the courthouse and a public square.
In 1897, the year of the founding of the GCBA, the population of Genesee County was about 40,000, and there were approximately forty attorneys. Charles Wisner was the Circuit Judge and F.W. Brennan was the County Prosecutor. The Courthouse was "old, cramped, and in need of renovation". In November of that year a small group of lawyers met to form the Association with the objective of "promoting social intercourse of the profession and improving the administration of justice".
Today, the population of the county is about 450,000. There are about 700 attorneys (or 1/650 population) with the GCBA membership nearing 600. There are nine Circuit Judges, two Probate Judges, eleven District Court Judges, and a number of Administrative Law Judges in a variety of government offices. The area has its own Federal Bankruptcy Court, and is part of the Federal District that includes most of southeast Michigan, with a Federal Courtroom located in Flint.
At the time of the founding of the Association Judge Charles H. Wisner was well known for civic activities and varied interests including photography and art. But he is most remembered for inventing his own automobile, working on it in his barn near today's intersection of East Court Street and Lapeer Road. He was never successful in marketing the car. The barn remains a tribute to him at Genesee County's Historic Crossroads Village, not far from the little 1890's law office named for the GCBA's founder, George Durand (and supported by the GCBA).
Through the first hundred years of its existence, the Genesee County Bar Association has had its share of notable members, significant cases, important pioneers and distinguished families. It is impossible to cover all of them, and the sum of the omissions may offer a better picture of the bar's first century than can be included in these few pages. With apologies to the people and the events not included, a few highlights of the GCBA's first 100 years are included.
Andrew Jackson Transue is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that his life spanned almost all of the Bar's! Born in 1903, Transue was admitted to the bar in 1926 and continued an active practice until his death in 1995. Elected to Congress in 1936 for one term during the Roosevelt sweep, he relished being called Mr. Congressman throughout his long life and remained an active Democrat until his death. Upon being honored in his 90th year by the Michigan Democratic Party, Andy publicly and quite sternly corrected Vice President Gore on a minor point in his legal career as Gore was reading the statement honoring him.
Transue, well known for his colorful presence, is most important for a case which became a standard and precedent still in use, the Morisette case. He argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1952, and it has been cited in nearly a thousand subsequent rulings. The Morisette case, in brief summary:
Transue's client was convicted of stealing and selling for scrap some old bomb casings from the Air Force Base at Oscoda. He believed the casings to have been abandoned. Transue appealed based on the fact that the client had not intended to steal, but had believed there was no use for the casings. After lengthy arguments, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction, noting that while the defendant had removed material from government property, that in so doing, he had no intention of committing a crime.
That there must be intent for a crime to exist is not a new proposition, but the case became a landmark in the legal world.
Upon the death of Transue in 1995, Gilbert Rubenstein became the dean of practitioners in the GCBA. Rubenstein began his practice and affiliation with the GCBA in 1936, when there were fewer than 100 attorneys in the County. Gil officially retired in 2004 but continues to pause daily for his noon-time swim, to which he partly credits his good health. A past president of the Bar, an active member who is proud of his role in the establishment of a Federal Court in Genesee County, and his involvement in the community is also extensive. Gil is one of many Jewish attorneys in the bar who has contributed much to the Jewish Community, as well as to the community at large. He served in many capacities at Temple Beth Israel, as secretary, as author of their articles of incorporation, as preparer of teacher contracts, as President of the Jewish Community Council and as chair of the United Jewish Appeal at vario
John M. Wright (Jack), another president of the bar, succeeded Gil as dean in 2004 still practicing for over sixty years. He specializes in family and probate law, and has two sons, John and Craig, also practicing attorneys. Jack is a World War II hero, having survived the Battle of the Bulge with serious war injuries. He lost his father, John A. Wright, to war wounds received D-Day on Omaha Beach with the 1 st Infantry Division. Before the war, Jack was a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and remains active in sports to this day. In 2005, he was given the honor of throwing the opening pitch at a Detroit Tigers Game after winning the Most Valuable Player in an amateur senior game.
MULTI-GENERATIONAL IMPACT GCBA FAMILIES
Several families have had significant impact over many years and multiple generations of Genesee County attorneys.
The Gadola family includes six attorneys with an accumulation of over 150 years of practice of which about 65 have been on the bench. Paul V. Gadola, Sr. had practiced for only about 10 years when he was appointed to the Circuit Bench in 1928, serving until 1959. Judge Gadola presided over the case in which striking workers were ordered out of the factory in the city's and the UAW's famous "sit-down strike" of 1936-1937.
Two of the Gadola children became attorneys in Genesee County. Paul V. Gadola, Jr. was admitted to practice in 1953, and Thomas L. Gadola was admitted in 1957. For a time after the senior Gadola's retirement, the two sons and their father practiced together. Paul V. Gadola, Jr. was appointed a U.S. District Judge by President Reagan in 1989, and he continues to serve in that capacity. Paul's son, Michael Gadola, is an attorney in government service in Lansing, Michigan. Governor William Milliken appointed Thomas L. Gadola to the Probate Court bench in 1977 and in 1998 was assigned to the new Family Court Division where he served until his death in 2003. The family tradition continued when Toms son, John A. Gadola, was elected to the Family Court Bench in 2002. "It's been a wonderful experience the Gadola family has had with the Genesee County Bar," stated Judge Tom Gadola. "I only hope we've been able to give back as much as we received!"
The Stipes family also has a long history with the County and the bar. Reuben Stipes came to Flint with his friend Walter P. Chrysler, to run a department at the fledgling Buick Motor Car Company. Reuben's sons, Frank Stipes and Reese Stipes both became attorneys in the 1920's, and both served as presidents of the bar association. Frank's son, Reuben Stipes, became an attorney, and he has one son who is an attorney in Puerto Rico. Reese's sons, Tom Stipes and Reese Stipes II, have been practicing attorneys in Genesee County since 1955, and Tom practiced until his death in 1999. Marcia Stipes, Reese's daughter, is also an attorney. The Stipes family has, according to Reese, produced a total of seven attorneys, most of whom have been active in the Genesee County Bar for about 87 of its 107 years.
The current and somewhat venerable Reese Stipes, along with a cohort and "partner in crime" Duke Parker, were honored in the 1997 GCBAs Centennial Celebration for their many contributions to the Bar Association. The considerable legal skills of both are exceeded only by their capacity for fun and for practical jokes! Parker is the head of another distinguished GCBA family.
Allan "Duke" Parker, his son Patric Parker, and Pat's wife, Suellen Parker are in practice in Genesee County. Duke's grandfather, James Parker was the first family member to practice here, being admitted to the bar in 1894. He was a signer of the constitution of the GCBA. His practice spanned 43 years, 12 of which were on the bench. James' son, Hugh Parker, was an attorney until his early death at the age of 33. Hugh's son, James, is an attorney in Hillsdale County, and two of Hugh's daughters married attorneys. The Parker family's affiliation with the GCBA spans its entire history.
The Evans family's involvement in the law exceeds the GCBA history. Evan Evans graduated from UM-Law in 1895 and later became Circuit Court Commissioner and Justice of the Peace in neighboring Tuscola County. His son, Robert Evans, graduated from UM-law in 1933 and practiced in Genesee County, serving as Justice of the Peace in Mt. Morris for 32 years, and as a Flint Municipal Judge for a time. William Evans, the third generation in the family, graduated from UM-Law in 1959 and he became one of the original 67th District Court Judges in 1968. Serving for 28 years, he was the last of "the originals" to serve in that capacity. William was involved in the planning of the current court schedule combining the Central District Court with the outlying courts.
Charles and William Neithercut led parallel lives and careers. Both left the farm in Clare County went to Central Normal (now CMU) and became teachers, and then went to law school. They became members of the GCBA in 1916 and joined the firm of W.V. Smith, one of the GCBA founders. Each served as a GCBA President in later years. They specialized in real estate during Flint's boom years, and practiced together for about 40 years. Both had sons who joined the firm: John Neithercut, (William's son) and Edward Neithercut, (Charles' son) joined the firm in 1950. Edward is now retired from practice. He and his wife, are well known for their involvement in many cultural and civic activities. John died in an automobile accident after only 17 years of practice. He was the father of Geoffrey Neithercut, a circuit court judge since 1994. Geoff had served as a City Councilperson and District Court Judge after joining the bar in 1975. He served in private practice with the family firm. It is his wife, Jean, who spent many hours researching and compiling the information for our bar history.
The Winegarden family is notable in a number of ways. They were among the first of the Jewish faith to settle in Flint after immigrating from Russia in the late 1800's. Myron Winegarden began the practice of law in 1929, and his cousin Jerome Winegarden opened his practice in 1938. A reminder of the reverse of affirmative action, Myron had been denied entrance to UM-Law School his first try because the school had filled its "Jewish quota" for the year. The former firm of Winegarden, Shedd, Haley, Lindholm & Robertson bears the name of one of the founders, Myron Winegarden. Jerome Sr. worked as a criminal defense attorney and also in the areas of personal injury and product liability, and serving as general counsel for the family business interests. Jerome Dallas Winegarden, Jr. was admitted to practice in 1969, joining the prosecutor's office, and then going into private practice. He is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Association and was chairperson on the Bar Associations successful Building a Better Bar capitol campaign. JD Jr.'s daughter, Lindsay Dinner Winegarden, passed the bar in 1999 and now practices in Illinois.
Of course several other families have had three or more generations of attorneys. It is perhaps not surprising that several judges have come from such families. Among the other serving judges, the McAra family and the Beagle families have had a long tradition of serving the bar, the community, and the judiciary as well.
Among the active young lawyers in the county, several continue the tradition of their parents as both practitioners of the law and as active members of the GCBA: these include, Mike Behm, Chris Ebbott, Pat McCombs, Robert MacDonald, Matt Abraham, Doug Buck, Morgan and Craig Jakeway, Dave Nickola, David Newblatt, Susan Philpott Preketes, Pete Philpott, and Dean Yeotis.
Ruth Winegarden Berger, Myron's first wife, is quite possibly the first woman attorney in Genesee County, starting practice in 1929. She is believed to be one of the first 100 women attorneys admitted to practice in the State Bar of Michigan. She provides a perfect transition from families in practice to some of the women attorneys of the GCBA!
While women have played an increasingly prominent role in the law in recent years, the nnumber of women in the past 100 years is small, and the early practitioners were truly pioneers! The 1970 composite photo of the GCBA shows only three women, just over 1% of the membership.
The first woman to serve as President of the GCBA was Arthalu Lancaster (Artie), who presided in 1987-1988, ninety years after its founding. Artie joined the bar in 1968 and worked in the prosecutor's office for two years before entering private practice. At the time she was sworn in, there were only two other women in practice in Flint, Judge Elza Papp and Maureen Jones McKenna. By 1987 when she became president, there were more than fifty women lawyers or about 10% of the membership. Today, nearly one-fourth of the members are women. Arthalu Lancaster was elected District Court Judge in 1989. Truly a pioneer, she doesn't see herself as a woman attorney or judge, but as an attorney who happens to be a woman. She is proud to be a lawyer and a member of a profession that contributes a great deal to the community and the concept of justice. Arthalu retired from the bench in 2001.
Jean P. Carl became the second woman to serve as president of the Association in 1992. She had worked in the Prosecutor's Office, had managed one of the UAW/GM offices, and volunteered for child advocacy issues until her death in 2006.
Francine Cullari, the third woman president of the Association, began her term in 1999. She inspired many attorneys with her theme of Service to the Community with volunteer opportunities such as Habitat for Humanity and a Peer Mediation project involving elementary students. Francine remains active as editor of the associations bimonthly publication, Bar Beat.
Susan Philpott Preketes is the fourth women president of the Association, serving from 2004-2005. She and Doug Philpott have the distinction of being the only father-daughter presidents of the GCBA.
Formidable. Ahead of her time. Tough. A fighter. These are some of the words that the Honorable Elza Papp has used to describe herself. Another pioneer, Papp was sworn in to practice in Genesee County in 1945, and became Genesee County's first female assistant prosecutor in 1947. She was elected to the Circuit Court in 1965, becoming the first woman in Genesee County and only the second in the state to achieve that distinction. She served on the court until retiring in 1972. When she sought work as an attorney in the Cleveland area in the late 1930's she was offered several jobs in large firms, as a secretary! "The law", she said in an interview, "was really my life."
Judge Judith Fullerton is the second woman to have served on the Circuit bench, a position she holds at the time of this writing. Fullerton was an assistant prosecutor and District Court judge and worked in the Flint City Attorney's office. She is known for her strong work ethic.
Today Ramona M. Roberts is the only woman of color on the bench in Genesee County and is one of a handful of women to have served as judge. Ms. Roberts is a Judge of the 68th District Court, the second woman of color to hold one of those judgeships. She has served as Chief Judge of the 68 th District Court and as President of the Michigan District Judges Association. Nationally, Judge Roberts served on the Executive Board of the Judicial Council National Bar Association.
Maureen Jones McKenna, who was mentioned earlier, was the mother half of one of the earliest mother/daughter attorney combinations, before her daughter's practice was cut short by an early death. A second mother/daughter team that practiced together for a short time in the 1970's was Edwyna Goodwin Anderson and her daughter, Kathie Dones-Carson. Edwyna served double-duty as a pioneer being both a woman and an African-American. Proud of her many firsts, she noted that it says something about our society that no one had preceded her in categories that should, or could, have been filled by capable women and/or Blacks that had been in the area for a century ahead of her. Edwyna was admitted to the bar and in 1974 became the first black woman member of the GCBA. At the time there were about five women and fewer than ten black attorneys in the County. She had been a teacher for several years before becoming an attorney. She worked in the Prosecutor's office. Edwyna is perhaps better known for accomplishments outside the practice of law as a member of the Mott Community College Board of Trustees, as a member of the state Public Service Commission, and then as general counsel to the Duquesne Light Company in Pennsylvania.
Former GCBA Board member, Karen McDonald Lopez was named the first woman, and the first African-American woman, to serve as the Flint City Attorney, though many others have served as assistant city attorneys in Flint.
EVA BELLES' VOTE
Although not a lawyer, and not really of the GCBA era, it would be inexcusable to leave the GCBA women without some mention of one of Michigan's Legal Milestones. An early case in which George Durand served as the attorney, was one in which some women won the right to vote in some elections, three decades ahead of the suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In 1888, solely because she was a woman, Eva Belles was denied the right to vote in a school election. She retained Durand and fought that decision up to the Supreme Court. The State Legislature set the qualifications for voting in school elections, and the statute indicated that every person who meets age, property and parenthood requirements could vote in elections not involving tax issues. George Durand argued that the "every person" language in the statute and not the gender restriction found in the constitution should prevail. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed, and Eva Belles won the right (in very narrow circumstances) to vote.
The Eva Belles' vote is recognized as a Michigan Legal Milestone, and is commemorated by a bronze plaque in the foyer of the Courthouse.
PIONEERS OF COLOR
Claude W. Haywood appears to have been the first person of color admitted to the bar in Genesee County. He came to Flint from Raleigh, NC, and was admitted to the bar in 1919: in spite of some extensive research efforts, little more is known of him. The Mallory, VanDyne, & Scott Bar Association was formed in 1989 and takes its name from three of the earliest Black attorneys in the county. It is an association of Black attorneys that was modeled after the purposes of the National Bar Association.
Dudley Mallory became a member of the bar in 1926, coming here from Virginia. He continued in practice for several years. R.M. VanDyne became a member in 1927, coming to the Flint area from Oklahoma. He was a popular trial attorney. VanDyne's nephew, Elisha Scott, came here from Kansas in 1946 to practice with his uncle and he became very involved in civic organizations along with his successful practice. Scott became Flint's first administrative law judge, serving the Michigan Department of Labor. There is little background on these early pioneers, and the GCBA repeats its appeal for information on them so that we can provide more extensive background in the future. It is perhaps noteworthy, and a sign of the times in which they practiced, that information is so sparse.
The times have changed! While individuals of color still represent a rather small proportion of the practicing attorneys in Genesee County, there are several among the members of the bench. Judge Archie Hayman sits on the Circuit Court and Judges Nathaniel C. Perry III, Ramona M. Roberts, William H. Crawford, II and Herman Marable, Jr. are all members of the 68th District Court. Among their predecessors on the bench were Ollie Bivens and William Price.
Valdemar L. Washington, past president of the GCBA, also served on the Circuit Court bench for ten years before retiring in 1996. He became only the second person of color to lead the Association, serving as President in 1996-1997.
William Price III was the first person of color to head the Genesee County Bar Association in 1970-1971. Born in Oklahoma, he came to Flint in 1951and served as an assistant prosecutor. He was in private practice prior to his appointment to the bench in 1972. He was only the second African-American judge in the county. Ollie Bivens was the first. Judge Price had been a veteran of the Tuskegee Fighter Squadron, serving as a flight commander during World War II. He was active in a variety of community activities.
One of the best known and most prominent of the area's African American attorneys was the late Otis M. Smith. In the early 1950's Smith came to Flint to join the firm of Dudley Mallory. He was soon named an assistant prosecutor for Genesee County, then chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission and, in 1959, Auditor General of the State. In 1961 Smith was sworn in as a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court at the tender age of 39. He was the first Black to serve in that role, and the only Genesee County attorney to achieve that position in this century. He left the bench to work for General Motors, rising to the position of Vice President and General Counsel for the Corporation, a position he held until his retirement in 1984.
Other African-American attorneys were prominent in the Civil Rights struggles of the '60's and '70's including C. Frederick Robinson and A. Glenn Epps. After an extended service as an administrative law judge, Epps entered into private practice until his death in 2002. Epps also served on the GCBA Board of Directors. Robinson continues in private practice today.
Of course it was not only African-American attorneys that were involved in the Civil Rights struggle. The firm of Leitson, Dean, Dean, Abram and Segar was especially involved in the movement, sending members of the firm to the South to argue in voting registration drives and in various voting rights cases. They assisted the National Lawyers Guild in their efforts which often involved dangerous and intimidating situations. One case is especially noteworthy, the Evelyn Butts case:
The case involved the Virginia poll tax, levied on all citizens, but in reality a device to disenfranchise Black voters. Max Dean and Bob Segar undertook the case challenging the constitutionality of the poll tax. The trial took place in Alexandria, Virginia. The three judge panel very quickly denied the plaintiff's case based on precendent, including a U.S. Supreme Court case upholding the very same statute. The decision was appealed directly to the Supreme Court, and Bob Segar and a Virginia co-counsel argued the case. The Solicitor General, Thurgood Marshall, argued for the United States which had joined the case - participating as Amicus Curiae. In March of 1966 the Supreme Court issued its opinion overruling its prior decision and invalidating the poll tax in state elections in Virginia and in other states. This major civil rights suit was won, in part, because of the efforts of Genesee County attorneys and a civic minded Genesee County firm.
Bob Segar was awarded the State Bar Champion of Justice award in 1997 for his many achievements, but the nomination was made in large part on the basis of his role in this important advance for the rights of minorities. He also received the GCBAs Herbert A. Milliken, Jr. Civility Award.
Stewart Newblatt, a retired Federal Judge on senior status, participated as a Circuit Judge in rulings involving the civil rights struggle on the local level, and his strong positions contributed to the advancement of human rights during this time and beyond. His son, David Newblatt, was appointed to the Family Court Division of Circuit Court by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2004.
History is still being made in the bar association. In 2004, Kendall B. Williams was honored with the Herbert A. Milliken, Jr. Civility of the Year Award. Kendall is the first African-American to ever receive this distinguished award.
It would be impossible, in this short space, to outline the contributions of the many outstanding attorney members of a century of the Genesee County Bar Association. But the history would be incomplete without mentioning a few others.
Michael Evanoff is perhaps best known by today's Flint area families as a chronicler of local history, particularly of the melting pot that was the city's north end. He wrote several family and local histories. But his presence in the law was significant in the 1930's as attorney for the fledgling UAW at the time of the famous Sit-Down Strike. "I was," he was quoted as saying, "too green to know any better than to get involved! But, I had taken an oath to serve equal justice under the law without fear or favor." Evanoff is typical of many immigrant first and second generation attorneys, having come to Flint from Yugoslavia. After an accident left him paralyzed, he took up the cause of many patients in the nursing home in which he was a resident for several years. It is perhaps instructive to note that he indicated that the bar association of the time (roughly 1940-1960) was much less a professional organization than a social club; and that there was an unwritten rule forbidding discussion of business matters over the telling of jokes, stories, legal gossip and some low-grade politics.
Stephen J. Roth was another immigrant (Hungarian) product of the city's north side melting pot. Roth was an unsuccessful City Council candidate, but then won election as Genesee County Prosecutor and as state Attorney General on the G. Mennan Williams slate in 1948. He was later appointed circuit judge by Williams and then was twice elected to the bench. He was appointed by President Kennedy to the Federal Bench for Eastern Michigan, and was the first federal judge to sit in the Flint Federal Building on Church Street. As a federal judge, Roth was involved in one of the most controversial cases in recent history, ruling in favor of cross-district bussing in a desegregation law suit arising in the Detroit area.
There has been a strong presence of other ethnic communities in the bar, including the Greek community. This community is represented by retired Judges Thomas Yeotis and Peter Anastor. Yeotis is considered the patriarch of the Greek legal community (as well as of the sports community!). Tim Bograkos, Frank and John Yiannatji, Dean Yeotis and John Pavlis are among others in practice who are active members of the Flint area Greek community.
Richard Ruhala is another individual who represents a strong ethnic background (Arab-American), coupled with extensive community service that has been typical of many of the attorneys in the area. Ruhala served on the Flint City Charter Commission, the Flint Board of Education and various school board positions. He has headed or was involved in several charitable organizations and has served on various boards and commissions in Flint Township. He was active in the Democratic Party and was the party nominee for Congress. He also served the bar association, three terms as a board member and president in 1985-86. He served on the committee that helped create the downtown central court, and helped create the Liberty Bell Award. He is currently semi-retired but is still an active member of the bar and the community.
One could scarcely write of the highlights of the GCBA without mention of the late Court of Appeals Judge, Louis D. McGregor. A farm boy who loved nature and the outdoors. He became as well known for his conservation work as for his law practice. He excelled at both. McGregor taught school to work his way through the Detroit College of Law and came to Flint to practice in 1927. He became a circuit judge after more than 30 years of practice and then a member of the Court of Appeals from 1964 to 1975 when he retired. A fisherman, hunter and avid conservationist, McGregor traveled widely and lectured on his travels and outdoor sports. His legacy will live on, as the estate of his widow included a sizeable bequest to the Genesee County Bar Foundation for educational purposes of GCBA members. More than $35,000 in grants have been awarded by the Foundation to educate members of the Genesee County Bar Association.
One could continue to write about notable individuals and groups in the bar for more pages than this brief discourse would allow. What is critical to remember is that the people cited here are merely representative of a larger group. It is the lesser known hundreds of members of the Genesee County Bar Association, toiling day in and day out in their practice, in the Association and in their community, that has given life to the GCBA. They are the real heroes of this first century, and it is their successors who will be the heroes of the second century of the bar.
No other profession plays so prominent a role in preserving the freedom and tradition of the nation. It is no accident that the scoundrels in Shakespeare's play would "first kill the lawyers". Nothing could further advance their evil schemes than to eliminate the protectors of the law and of liberty. Every member, and the GCBA as an institution, must strive to live up to the traditions and standards set by Genesee County Lawyers in their first century as an organized bar!
The GCBA has combined educational, social and service activities throughout the year. There are frequent seminars, regular educational and social meetings, the Annual Golf Outing, a Motion Day 5K Run/Walk, the Annual Community Holiday Dinner for the needy, the Past Presidents' luncheon, and frequent events and advocacy meetings for the operation of the Bar. From time to time the membership is surveyed to assure that the Association is responding to the needs and concerns of its members. In addition, the local bar interacts with the State Bar and the ABA. The staff is active in state and local bar associations as well.
A few footnotes: the GCBA was actually incorporated in the late 1930's. For many years its "office" was a file box that was transported from the office of one president to the next. It has been only a few years that the bar could claim its own address and its own office. In 1990, the Association moved into Suite 100 of the McKinnon Building (now the Patterson Building), occupying for the first time an office that reflects the importance of the bar in the community. Doug Mintline served for about seven years as the Executive Director and deserves credit for helping to create the beautiful space the Association occupied. He left in 1993 to take a similar position with the Milwaukee Bar. Jack Minore replaced Mintline in 1993 and served the members of the GCBA for five years. Minore expanded communications with members, developed community outreach activities, and significantly increased members educational opportunities.
Ramona Sain replaced Minore in 1998 and continues as the Associations Executive Director. Notable accomplishments include biyearly United States Supreme Court admission trips for members, expanded Law Day activities including the first Annual Motion Day 5K Run/Walk in 2005, and regular continuing legal educational seminars. In 2001, the association purchased and renovated the building located at 315 E. Court St., Flint, making the GCBA the first local bar association in the state to achieve this success. The Building A Better Bar capitol campaign raised nearly $150,000 from more than one-hundred donors.
From material compiled by Jean Neithercut, written by Jack Minore, and updated and condensed by Ramona Sain.