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.


  • Facilitate the administration of justice
  • Preserve high standards of integrity, honor, and courtesy in the legal profession
  • Provide leadership in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community
  • Encourage and increase diversity in the legal profession
  • Further the goals of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers
  • Maintain and enhance the competency of its members
  • Participate in civic activities
  • Establish and maintain a supportive relationship with black college students who may have an interest in the legal profession.
  • Cultivate a spirit of camaraderie and fellowship among Chapter members​.