About Us

John S. Leary Association of Black Attorneys

John Sinclair Leary, Sr. launched the history of the local black bar in 1892 when he became the first black lawyer to practice in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Today, approximately 400 black lawyers practice law in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Born to free black parents in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Leary entered Howard University School of Law in 1871 and became the second African-American lawyer admitted to the bar in North Carolina and first in Charlotte. His law office was located on E. Trade Street in Charlotte, North Carolina. Leary served in the State Legislature representing Cumberland County for two terms during the Reconstruction Era. He also served as a school board member, the first dean of the law department at Shaw University, and a delegate to the Republican National Convention


Black lawyers were originally excluded from membership in local bar associations, including the Mecklenburg County Bar. In 1955, however, a new compulsory Mecklenburg County Bar was created which opened its membership to all local lawyers regardless of their race. Thomas Wynche, Leon Harris, Charles Bell, and Ruffin Boulding were the first four black lawyers admitted to the new Mecklenburg County Bar. In February 1997, the Charlotte Chapter of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers renamed its Chapter in honor of John S. Leary, Sr.

In the 1960s, numerous civil rights lawyers established law practices in Charlotte- Mecklenburg, including, Calvin Brown, Julius Chambers, James Ferguson, II, and Charles Jones. Patricia King launched the history of the local black female lawyers when she established a law practice in 1971. Other female pioneers include, Marnite Shuford, Yvonne Mims Evans, Sandra Cummings, Pamela Hunter, and Geraldine Sumter. The black judicial pioneers include, Clifton Johnson, T. Michael Todd, W. Terry Sherrill, Shirley Fulton, Marcus Johnson, and Yvonne Mims Evans.

Our Mission

  1. To further the goals of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers

  2. To facilitate the administration of justice

  3. To maintain and enhance the competence of its member

  4. To preserve high standards of integrity, honor, and courtesy in the legal profession

  5. To provide leadership in the Charlotte community

  6. To participate in civic activities

  7. To encourage its members to dedicate their lives, interests, skills, and energies to securing full rights and dignities of the community and to assuring that truth and justice are properly administered in our courts

  8. To establish and maintain a supportive relationship with black law students in Mecklenburg County who may have an interest in the legal profession and encourage them in that endeavor

  9. To cultivate a spirit of comradery and fellowship among Leary Bar members.


Fatina J. Lorick and Ed N. Russell, Co-Chairs
Gabe Wright and La-Deidre Matthews, Vice Co-Chairs
Robin Hicks-Guinn – Secretary
Morris McAdoo – Assistant Secretary
Wayne Lear – Parliamentarian
Ryon Smalls – Assistant Secretary
Tanisha Reed – Treasurer
Yvette Fuller- Assistant Treasurer