In February of 1975, a group of Black lawyers in Tallahassee, Florida, decided to start an organization of Black lawyers in the panhandle area of North Florida. Initially called the “Black Lawyers of Tallahassee” (“BLOT”), the membership comprised of all the Black lawyers in Tallahassee, for example, Robert Woolfork, President; Luther Smith, Vice President; Jack McLean, Secretary; Bishop Holifield, Treasurer; Robert Travis, Jr.; Ralph Armstead; Clarence Holmes; Harold Knowles; Roosevelt Randolph; Ed Duffy; William Ravenell; Martin Black; Chriss Walker; Williams Stevens; C. Bette Wimish; Joseph Hatchett; Curtis Mack; Lenader J. Shaw, Jr.; Remus Allen; Augustus Aikens; Algia Cooper; and Larry White. BLOT encouraged and received the active participation of Black law students such as: Henry Hunter; Bobby Owens; Eleanor Mitchell and Anna Motter.
At its inception, BLOT’s stated goals were “to maintain the honor and dignity of the law profession; to practice and promote improvements in the law and in the methods of its administration; to education its members and the general public in matters pertaining to the law and to the legal profession; to enhance the role of Black practitioners of the law; and to cultivate professional ethics. As its May 1975 meeting, BLOT’s members decided to adopt guidelines for the running of the organization, as such it was decided that BLOT would not have by-laws and formalized policies, but would conduct its business and affairs pursuant to the common law.
On May 03, 1975, BLOT sponsored its first social event honoring its black law students’ successful passage of the Florida Bar Examination. In August of 1975, BLOT changed its name to “The Tallahassee Barristers Association” (“Barristers”), opened its first bank account at the Barnett Bank of Tallahassee and created the “BARONS”, which competed in the local recreational basketball league. After President Robert Woolfork relocated to Gainesville, Florida, to open up a new law office with Stephen Mickle, Jerome Davis Travis was elected President of the Barristers and completed the remainder of President Woolfork’s term.
In its early years, the Barristers sponsored and co-sponsored numerous programs and events such as: Speakers Bureau; Black Santa with French Town Merchants Association; “Legal Tips”a radio program on 103 “WOWD”, an Annual Scholarship Banquet with the Black Law Student’s Association (“BLSA”); a “get to know you” event for the first year Black law students; a mentoring program; an Annual Christmas Party at which the price for admission was canned goods for later distribution to families in need in Leon County, Florida, as well as a writing contest for middle school students. Additionally, the Barristers used funds raised from the Annual Banquet and other events to establish a “Loan/Scholarship Program.” The Barristers became a respected and integral part of the Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association and for a number of years was instrumental in its electoral process.
Throughout the years the Barristers has been fortunately be guided under the leadership of many of Tallahassee’s African American legal practitioners. Robert Woolfork (1975); Robert Travis (1975-1977); Roosevelt Randolph (1977-1978); Bishop Holifield (1978-1979); Ralph Armstead (1979-1980); Henry C. Hunter (1980-1981); Larry K. White (1981-1982); Marva Davis (1981-1982); Judge Errol Powell (1983-1985); Chriss Walker (1985-1986); Harold Knowles (1986-1987);Walter Kelly (1987-1988); Carolyn Davis-Cummmings (1988-1990); George Drumming (1990-1991); Luther Smith (1991-1992); Jeraldine Williams-Smith (1993-1994); Ava L. Parker (1994); Burnadette Norris-Weeks (1995-1996); Judge Augustus D. Aikens (1996-1998); Benjamin L. Crump (1998-2000); Chriss Walker (2000-2001); Lola M. Swaby (2001-2002); Kenneth Pratt (2002- January 2003); Kathryn E. Price (January 2003 – June 2003); Stephen R.A. Knight (2003-2004); Kathryn E. Price (2004-2005); Sherrie Barnes (2005-2006); Craig Brown (2006-2007); Maja S. Holman (2007-2008); Henry C. Hunter (2008-2009); Angelique D. Knox (2009-2010); Judge Errol Powell (2010-2011); Carrol Y. Cherry (2011-2012); Mutaqee Akbar (2012-2013); Kristyn Hanna (2013-2014); Judge Andrew Dixon III (2014-2015); G.C. Murray, Jr. (2015-2016); Brandi Thomas (2016-2017); Matthew Williams (2017-2018); Jasmyne Henderson (2018-present).
Over the last 40 years, the Barristers has carried on the rich traditions and goals envisioned by the organization’s founders. In 2001, the organization underwent its second name change and became the “Tallahassee Barristers Association.” Today, while the Tallahassee Barristers Association is more formalized in its guidelines and policies, it remains an organization whose membership is comprised of law students and lawyers from the across the Tallahassee community. The Tallahassee Barristers Association’s focus has remained steadfast on the legal and economic empowerment of minorities, primarily African Americans, which it accomplishes by upholding the highest standards of legal ethics and principles within the legal profession.