Since its beginning in 1897, the Chattanooga Bar Association (CBA) was created as a way to provide and promote legal education for members as well as the community, take an interest in government affairs and help make justice available to all Chattanoogans. Now in its 125th year, the CBA has a growing membership of more than 800 professionals who continue to work toward those founding goals.
FOUNDING / 1897: The Chattanooga Bar Association was first established on April 15, 1897, as a result of a fire earlier that month on April 3, which completely engulfed the Richardson Building, where Miller Brothers Company department store building now stands (the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Annex). The lawyers who occupied the building had a custom of sharing libraries mutually. But when the fire destroyed the building, few could afford to duplicate their lost archives. The lawyers pooled their resources to establish a joint library through the medium of an organized association. On April 9, R.L. Bright, Robert Pritchard, J.B. Frazier, Frank Spurlock and A.W. Gaines applied for a charter for the Chattanooga Bar & Library Association, which was granted by the Secretary of State days later on April 13. On April 15, the incorporators met in the law office of A.W. Gaines, and after R.L. Bright was elected chairman and A.W. Gaines secretary, the charter was accepted, and the books thrown open to stock subscriptions. Later that same day, the stockholders met in the Chancery Courtroom, where W.B. Swaney was elected Chairman and L.M. Thomas Secretary. The charter was accepted and ordered spread upon the minutes; bylaws were adopted, and the original incorporators were elected directors.
50 YEARS: On its 50th anniversary, the Chattanooga Bar Association received the "Award of Merit" from the American Bar Association, the first local bar association south of the Mason-Dixon line to achieve the honor.
75 YEARS / 1972: President Raymond R. Murphy, Jr. and Secretary Charles J. Gearhiser saw the need of restructuring and reorganizing of the Association to meet the needs of the 20th Century. Stock ownership of the library was eliminated, and a revision of the bylaws was begun to guide the Association forward.
100 YEARS / 1998: A major milestone was the creation of the Domestic Relations Commission, chaired by Ann Gaines Darlington, which was established to address issues as to how the system can handle domestic violence, improve the domestic relations dockets, whether the system needs magistrates, and whether the system needs a "Domestic Relations Court." Sixty percent or more of the dockets in Hamilton County Circuit Court are domestic relations matters. Another of the CBA's accomplishment was the creation of SCALES (Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education to Students) which brought together students, teachers, parents, and lawyers, providing participants with an opportunity to discuss cases and the legal justice system.
125 YEARS / 2022: Celebrating 125 years of serving the Chattanooga region.
(Source: History of Chattanooga Bar Association 1897 to 1972 by Clarence Kolwyck)