Black History Month is the perfect time to reflect on and honor the impact so many Black Pennsylvanians have had on our lives. This history is all of our history and our great nation is stronger because of their determination, courage, and wisdom.
Our commonwealth is home to so many great men and women who have broken barriers, fought injustice and challenged the status quo. These significant contributions to our society have influenced every sector of our economy and have been agents of positive social change in all professions. The legal profession is no exception.
One great story of the ultimate power couple started in the 1920s when Raymond Pace Alexander and Sadie Tanner Mossell got married. Raymond became the first Black graduate of the Wharton School of Business and later earned his law degree at Harvard. Sadie was the first Black woman to not only earn a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania but also to be admitted to the PA Bar. Raymond and Sadie started a prominent law firm together in Philadelphia and were instrumental in the fight for civil rights.
Robert Nix Jr. is another example of an exceptional jurist. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army and a graduate of Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In 1971 Gov. Milton Shapp named him associate justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and Robert subsequently won his election to the court the following year. Not only was he the first African American to hold statewide office in our commonwealth, but he would later become chief justice — the first Black person to hold this title among all the state courts in our country.
These legacies have undoubtedly opened doors and paved the way for those who came after them. Their collective efforts have strengthened our state and we see the continuation of it today. The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, the Equal Professional Opportunity Committee of the Dauphin County Bar Association, and the Homer S. Brown Division of the Allegheny County Bar Association are doing impressive work supporting Black lawyers, while law firms and organizations like ours commit to the core mission of improving diversity, inclusion, and equity.
The Pennsylvania Association for Justice, with nearly 2,000 plaintiff’s attorney members, is proud to honor Black history and recognize the profound influence so many Black Pennsylvanians have had on the legal profession.