History of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association
Reflections on the First Century of the Association
by James R. Cox, October 2003
The Bar Association of Springfield, Missouri (as it was originally named) was formed on October 17, 1903. Strictly speaking a history of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association begins here. However, it is helpful to place the organization in the context of its time. By 1903 Springfield and Greene County already had an extensive and rich legal history. Greene County, named after Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene, was created by a special act of the Missouri Legislature on January 2, 1833. It was carved out of Crawford County which in turn had been carved out of Wayne County. These new counties were created as growth in population demanded more and smaller political units. Nevertheless, Greene County was huge. Its boundaries on the west and south were the Missouri State line. Rivers formed the north and east boundaries, respectively the Osage and Gasconade. Springfield was made the county seat.
In February 1833 a month following its creation, Greene County held its first election for county officials. The votes were cast and polled in Greene County but the returns were sent directly to the Governor, who canvassed the votes and announced the winners. Samuel Martin, J. N. Sloan and James Dollison were elected justices of the county court. John Polk Campbell, the founder of Springfield, was elected clerk of the court which was convenient since the first courthouse, a one room log cabin, was also his home. After being notified of their victory by the Governor, the justices met on March 11, 1833. They elected Samuel Martin to preside and appointed John D. Shannon as sheriff. This appointment was necessary because the winner of the election for sheriff, one Mr. Goodrich, had died the evening of the election. However, due to the size of the county and the slow speed of travel, news of his death did not spread quickly enough to prevent his election. The justices had exclusive original jurisdiction over all of the present day functions of the probate court as well as the binding in and out of apprentices and resolving disputes between apprentices and their masters. It was not until 1847 that probate court, as we know it, came into existence in Missouri. The first case heard in Greene County was brought in the county court by an attorney named Charles L. Teas in the estate of William Marshall, deceased. Mr. Teas attempted to establish a nuncupative will by deposition for Mr. Marshall. The court ruled that in new counties only wills written and signed by the testator while he was living were valid and declined to entertain the petition. This seems to have been the end of the first lawsuit in Greene County with Mr. Teas being the first lawyer to appear professionally in any court in Greene County.
Six months later Greene County's first Circuit Judge, Charles (Old Hoss) Allen, rode into town and convened court on August 12, 1833. Springfield was a small scattering of log cabins on the United States' western frontier. Only 12 years before on August 10, 1821 Missouri had been admitted to the Union. The area just south of the square had, until recently, been the site of the community of Delaware and Kickapoo Indians who had been removed west into Kansas and Oklahoma. Indian raids into Greene County for cattle, horses and fun would continue for several more years. Some of the frontiersmen who settled in the area considered themselves to be outside the pale of the law or entitled to take the law into their own hands. The struggle to impose law and order on the frontier required men who could and would command respect for the law. Judge Allen was such a man.
Physically he was a large man with a stern countenance and commanding stature who was impulsive and hasty to action. He cursed incessantly not only in his ordinary conversation but in his courtroom remarks. He earned his moniker by threatening to thrash a lawyer for disrupting his court. While court was in session an attorney interrupted the proceedings by raising his voice in some sort of altercation with another lawyer. The judge commanded silence. To this command the attorney paid no attention. As the sheriff chanced to be absent from the room at the time, his honor rose and in a voice of thunder cried 'Sit down sir and keep your mouth shut!'" The lawyer reluctantly sat down but stated in a defiant undertone "Well, as you are judge of this court, I guess I will obey you this time." The outraged judge replied "By God sir! I'll let you know that I'm not only judge of this court but I'm a HOSS besides and if you don't obey me I'll make you!"
Such was the nature of the first circuit judge presiding in Greene County on the first day of court. Appearing before him were the first two lawyers admitted to the Greene County Bar, Littleberry Hendricks (later a circuit judge) and Thomas Gevin (later a circuit attorney). Considering that it was August and that the court was being held in a small one room log cabin, it is just as well that the docket of the court was light. In fact, there was only one case Manuel Carter vs. Nathan Newson. The only facts known about this case are that one of the parties (Carter) was a free black who had earlier appealed an adverse decision in his case and the case was dismissed shortly after the court convened. The only other business of the court was receiving 25 grand jury indictments: 2 for murder, 7 for adultery and 16 for gambling. The usual fine assessed for gambling was $5.00 plus costs. Adulterers paid a higher price for their pleasure. A fine was the usual punishment for minor offenses in Greene County since Springfield did not have a jail. Whether the two indicted for murder were incarcerated, and if so where, is not recorded. At the conclusion of court, Judge Allen packed his bags, saddled his horse and rode on to Washington, St. Francis, Franklin, Gasconade, Crawford and Pulaski Counties which, together with Greene County comprised the 6th Judicial Circuit. The judge rode this circuit three times a year.
So did the lawyers. Because of the sparse population, lawyers took cases wherever they could get them. So lawyers were also circuit riders accompanying the judge from county to county, meeting with clients, trying cases then saddling up again at the close of court to ride over rough, unsettled terrain to the next county seat. Roads were rare or non-existent. Trails were in poor condition and the distance between county seats was great. Lawyers and judges were often away from home for weeks at a time riding the circuit. It is said that familiarity breeds contempt, maybe this explains the ire of "Old Hoss" and the attitude of the defiant lawyer. Because they were on horseback, there was a limit to the personal belongings lawyers and the judge could carry. Lawyers on the frontier owned few law books and rarely took them with them on the circuit. They relied upon their powers of persuasion and general knowledge of the law rather than specific case citations to make their point. Most of the early circuit riding lawyers were renowned for their oratory and the most famous drew crowds from miles around to hear them argue.
In 1855, as a result of a continually growing population, Greene County was divided into smaller counties and together with Dade, Lawrence, Jasper, Newton, Barry, Taney, Stone, and McDonald Counties formed the new 13th Judicial Circuit. With the exception of Greene County, it is said that none of these other counties boasted of a single attorney. John O'Day, a distinguished Springfield attorney who opened his office in 1866, grew a practice that extended into over 21 counties including Greene County. In the other 20 counties there were no lawyers and Springfield attorneys handled almost all of the legal cases arising from them. The advent of the railroad into southwest Missouri following the Civil War greatly facilitated the travel of the circuit judge and circuit lawyers and contributed greatly to the expanding population. In 1901 when Greene County was made a separate circuit by itself, the circuit riding days of Greene County's judges and some of its attorneys came to an end.
Before September 1939 when the Bar Examination was invented to torture law students, lawyers were admitted by application to a circuit judge. The judge would then impanel some local lawyers and examine the applicant. Proof of graduation from the 8th grade was the only educational requirement. Very few of the early lawyers in Missouri had attended college, even less law school. Becoming a lawyer was mainly a matter of informal apprenticeship. Prospective lawyers would clerk for a local lawyer for a couple of years and would also read the law while assisting the lawyer. "Applicants read Blackstone, Greenleaf, and Chitty, and generally attended court sessions, listened to the trials and read the pleadings." (Hulston, An Ozark Lawyer's Story, page 117). Presumably the examination of the applicant tested his knowledge of substantive and procedural law and legal theory. The quality and reputations of the early lawyers of Greene County reveal that the admission procedure was effective. However, the only accounts we have of any early examinations are the following ludicrous and probably mythical tales as recounted by Hulston, supra, at pages 118-9:
"A young attorney had studied assiduously for the examination. The day of his examination arrived. He appeared before the circuit judge.
Q. "What is the principal concern of a lawyer?" was the first question.
A. "Collection of his fees," replied the young lawyer.
Q. "What is the first duty of a lawyer after admission to the bar?" was the next question.
A. "Buy everyone a drink," responded the young lawyer.
And with that answer, he was promptly admitted, and the court immediately adjourned to celebrate the event.
Another account follows:
Q. "What books have you read?"
A. "Law books."
Q. "Then, sir, what is law?"
A. "Now, sir, if I did not know what law is, would I be wanting a license?"
Whereupon, the committee reported favorably, and the applicant was admitted and rode the circuit for many years to follow.
Often the training ground was work in a circuit clerk's office for a term of two years. A story of a deputy circuit clerk being examined has been recorded.
Q. "What is the first pleading on the part of the plaintiff?"
A. "A petition, sometimes called a complaint or declaration."
Q. "What is the first pleading on the part of a defendant?"
A. "Application for a continuance of the case."
He was admitted without dissent.
An old-time lawyer related his experience as a brakeman on the first railroad out of Springfield to Indian Territory, saying he had to quit his job because the cowboys threw him off the train too many times. He turned to the study of medicine with a local doctor but the doctor ran out of funds and liquor so he transferred his interest to a lawyer across the hall whose funds and liquor lasted long enough for him to get ready for an examination by the bar committee.
Q. "What books have you studied?"
A. "Blackstone and some others."
Q. "How much law have you acquired from the study of these books?"
A. "Very damned little."
Frank B. Williams in recounting this story said, "Because of truthfulness, the forthrightness, and being well-known to the member of the committee, he was thereupon admitted to the bar."
A good account of early Greene County lawyers complete with biographies can be found in chapter 13 of Fairbanks and Tuck, Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri. Anyone seeking an entertaining and anecdote-filled biographical sketches of Greene County's early lawyers and judges should seek out this work. York Johnson, the Association's first executive director, condensed the following history of Greene County's circuit riding judges from that chapter. Any reader seeking further facts should seek solace there.
"Foster P. Wright succeeded Judge Allen as circuit judge in 1837. He was known as a lawyer of more than ordinary ability. He was well grounded in the fundamentals, was a close student, a well nigh perfect pleader and a dangerous antagonist at the bar. He practiced law for the law's sake rather than for financial gain. He died at a ripe old age, possessing none of this world's goods but rich in the rewards of the future life.
Judge Wright was succeeded by Charles S. Yancey in 1841. Judge Yancey was born in Kentucky and settled in Greene County in 1833. He was not regarded as a perfect lawyer, but he was upright, devoted to his profession, very successful in his practice, and his appointment to the judgeship was a recognition of professional fitness well deserved. In 1838, three years before he was made judge, Yancey had been charged with murder in connection with the shooting of a man named Roberts. He was indicted, tried and acquitted in the Circuit Court of Greene County with Judge Wright being the judge and Littleberry Hendricks, as circuit attorney. His plea was self-defense because Roberts had attacked him. Roberts became embittered towards and made many threats to kill Yancey because Yancey had represented the victor in a lawsuit against him. Yancey was acquitted.
"Upon Judge Yancey's death on February 7, 1857, W. C. Price was appointed to the bench on March 12, 1857. Judge Price was born in Virginia and came to Missouri in 1836. At odd times while he was teaching school and clerking in stores, he read law and was admitted to practice in 1844. He served as Justice of the Peace, Probate Judge and had been elected to the State Senate in 1854 from which he resigned to be appointed judge. After his defeat in the elections of 1857, President Buchanan appointed Judge Price Treasurer of the United States.
"In the 1857 election J. R. Chenault of Jasper County was elected Circuit Judge over the incumbent William C. Price, Littleberry Hendricks and J. H. McBride, all of Springfield, due to a forged letter circulated throughout the circuit to the effect that Hendricks was withdrawing. A short time after his election, Chenault moved to Springfield.
"In the elections of 1860, P. H. Edwards was elected Judge of the Circuit. In the summer of 1861 Judge Edwards and the prosecuting attorney went with the Southern Confederacy, leaving the circuit court and Springfield and never returning to Springfield. As a consequence, there was no session of the Circuit Court until the spring of 1862, when Littleberry Hendricks was appointed to the bench by Governor Gamble. No abler man or profound jurist ever sat as a circuit judge on the bench in Springfield than Littleberry Hendricks. He had a great knowledge of the law and as a judge was, even in the bitter and highly prejudiced war years, absolutely impartial in his administration of the law. He was honored and revered by every member of the bar for his learning and integrity. He had been a plasterer by trade in his younger days, and while pursuing this trade he was employed by Judge Leonard, a former judge of the Supreme Court whose eyesight was failing, to read and write for him. In this way Judge Hendricks acquired a fondness for the law which developed into his admission to the bar as one of its leading exponents. Hendricks died January 8, 1863, and his term of court, that began that month, was held by John C. Price, Judge of the 13th judicial circuit. In 1863 John S. Waddill was elected circuit judge to fill out the unexpired term of Judge Hendricks. Judge Waddill served out his term and then re-entered the practice of law." (Quoting York Johnson's abridgement of Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri.)
The Civil War was a pivotal event in Greene County history. As noted, many lawyers and even some judges found their allegiance to be with the Confederacy and left Springfield. Those who remained found themselves in a city that was fought over repeatedly by the opposing forces and changed hands frequently. From a military standpoint Springfield was significant because it was the only city of any size in southwest Missouri along the Old Wire Road, the only road large enough to transport the volume of supplies necessary to sustain a large military campaign. Once secured by the Union in late 1862 Springfield was transformed into an arsenal and supply depot and came under military law. All public buildings of any size were commandeered for military purposes. At the beginning of the war in 1861 Greene County's courthouse, a two story brick affair built in 1837-40, stood in the center of the square as courthouses do in many other surrounding counties. It was already outmoded and a new courthouse was being constructed on the site where the Heer's building now stands. Any debate that there might have been concerning what was to be done with the old courthouse was rendered moot when a prisoner in jail in the building set the place alight with matches. The building was a total loss. The new courthouse was a three-story building that was used as a barracks during the Civil War. Some soldiers from rural areas had never seen a three-story building before and a climb to the top to see the view was a popular past time. It was from the top of this courthouse that some thrill seeking and fool hearty residents of Springfield watched as stray bullets and cannonballs sailed past while Confederates attacked the town in the Battle of Springfield, January 8, 1863.
As a result of the Civil War, Springfield and much of southwest Missouri became largely Republican since most Democratic voters were also southern supporters and had gone south during the war, many never to return. The end of the war in 1865 did not end the legal turmoil it had created. To quote again from York Johnson's abridgement of Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri:
"The bitter feeling engendered during the conflict still prevailed. A man who 'went south' was already prejudged and condemned if an action was pending against him. A trial of his case, if criminal, meant a verdict of guilty; if civil, a judgment for the opposition. The only course, with any basis of chance for the defendant, was to avoid trial by continuance after continuance. Because of his keen sense of justice, his great impartiality and his exceptional legal ability, Judge Waddill was retained by a large number of men who went south during the Civil War when their property had been taken from them by executions from judgments obtained in absentia based upon spurious and false claims. But continuances could not always and for indefinite time be had. To secure them taxed the ingenuity of defendants' counsel to the limit. Where all others failed, Judge Waddill would succeed. It is not recorded that he was ever unsuccessful in securing a continuance. A prominent attorney said of him something like this: 'There is Judge Waddill, the hero of a thousand continuances. When he dies and there shall be a monument erected to mark his final resting place a fitting epitaph to be inscribed on the monument would be, "Here lies the body of John S. Waddill. He is not dead but continued.'" At one time he filed an application for a continuance in a case after his client had already secured the continuance by "shuffling off his mortal coil."'
With the cessation of hostilities in April of 1865 some Confederates returned to Springfield. One of these was Dave Tutt who is known to us only by the distinction of having been shot and killed by Wild Bill Hickcock on the Springfield square on July 25, 1865. Wild Bill, whose nickname was no doubt a cause of concern to his defending lawyer, John S. Phelps, had lost his watch in a poker game with Tutt. He directed Tutt not to wear the watch in public. Tutt responded that he would wear it on the public square the very next morning to which Hickcock responded, "If you appear on the public square wearing my watch I'll kill you." The next morning the pair appeared on the square and approached each other apparently with guns drawn. Although Tutt fired first, Hickcock fired best and fulfilled his promise of the night before. Mr. Hickcock immediately turned himself in and was charged with murder. There were plenty of eyewitnesses and the event took place in broad daylight. It is difficult to see how Mr. Phelps persevered with his plea of self-defense but he did. Mr. Hickcock was acquitted. To take nothing away from Mr. Phelps, who was generally recognized as the best lawyer in southwest Missouri, the ill feeling harbored by the Union citizens of Springfield toward their former Confederate foes undoubtedly left little room for sympathy for Mr. Tutt and less room to condemn a Union veteran with a good war record.
This victory in a case that made headlines nationwide was but a small part of the career of John S. Phelps. Born December 22, 1814 in Connecticut he graduated from college in 1832, was admitted to the bar at age 21 and moved to Missouri at age 23. He began practice in Springfield in 1837 and was very quickly the leading lawyer in southwest Missouri. He served in the state legislature in 1840 and was elected to Congress in 1844 where he served for 18 years. In 1861 he recruited a Union regiment and fought at the Battle of Pea Ridge as acting Brigadier General. He was appointed Military Governor of Arkansas in 1862. He returned to the practice of law in Springfield in 1864. He was elected Governor of Missouri in 1876 and did not practice thereafter. He is also known as the father of the postage stamp.
Presiding over the Hickcock trial was Judge Sempronius Boyd nicknamed "Pony". His career was equally fascinating. To quote York Johnson's condensation again, "S. H. Boyd ascended the bench on May 11, 1865, replacing Judge Waddill, and served until 1868. "Pony" or "Colonel" Boyd as he was commonly called, was truly one of the most illustrious members of the Greene County Bar of all times. Born in Tennessee, he was brought to Springfield in 1832 when four years of age. In contrast to many lawyers of his era, he received a very good education from private tutors. In his youth, he was an adventurous soul. In 1849 when only 20 years old, he crossed the plains to the gold field of California and returned in 1855 by way of Nicaragua. Upon his return home he commenced to study law in the office of W. C. Price and was admitted to practice in 1857. When the Civil War broke, he joined the Union Army and participated in several engagements. Incidentally, Judge Boyd was one of eleven brothers and the only one who espoused the cause of the Union. His other ten brothers went with the Southern Confederacy. After the war he bore no enmity or revengeful feelings against his former foes. He was one of the first of the Union sympathizers to advocate the enfranchisement of former Confederates.
He loved politics and next to John S. Phelps, was the most outstanding politician Greene County has ever known. He stood in high esteem with county, state and national party leaders. Early in life he became city mayor and city attorney and prosecuting attorney. While on active service in 1862 he was elected to Congress but remained in the Army until December 1863. He was again elected to Congress in 1869. In his files were personal letters to Judge Boyd from Lincoln, Seward, Chase, Grant, Sherman, Blaine, Thad Stevens and other war time leaders. He had been assured of an appointment as minister to Venezuela by Lincoln, but the latter's assassination forestalled the appointment. However, in 1890, he was designated the minister of Siam and his son, Robert, became a close friend of the King of Siam who was the little prince in the book "The King and I."
Springfield has had many great orators and Judge Boyd was one of the greatest. His captivating oratory swayed audiences and juries. He was often referred to as Springfield's Henry Clay. Not only because of his oratory but also because of the striking facial similarity, especially his mouth, which, according to those who knew both, was like Clay's, extending "almost from ear to ear."
The end of the Civil War did not bring an end to partisan hostilities and violence. A group of men who felt that the law was being enforced arbitrarily and capriciously (i.e. not to their liking), and with the avowed intent to apply justice even-handedly, set themselves up as regulators known as the Baldknobbers. Operating chiefly in Taney County this group passed quickly from dispensing punishment by whipping to capital punishment. Ultimately, three members of the group were arrested, tried and defended by Pony Boyd among other attorneys. This trial occurred well after Judge Boyd stepped down from the bench and resumed private practice. Although Judge Boyd exerted his well renowned oratorical abilities the jury was not swayed and the three were convicted and hung in Ozark, Missouri on May 10, 1889. Judge Boyd's term on the bench ended in 1868.
Elections held that same year ushered in R. W. Fyan of Marshfield as circuit judge. He served for only a few months, resigning upon his election to congress. It is unclear whether Judge Fyan ran simultaneously for these offices. In any event, his tenure on the bench was brief. His departure prompted a special election which was held in 1869 in which W. F. Geiger was elected to fill Judge Fyan's term. Judge Geiger was admired and respected by the legal community and the voters as attested by his repeated election to office until his death in 1886. For an overview of succeeding judges, we return to York Johnson's abridgement of Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri.
"James R. Vaughn was appointed to fill out the unexpired term of Judge Gieger. W. D. Hubbard was elected in 1886 to succeed Vaughn. Judge Hubbard possessed an outstanding quick mind and was one of the most outstanding checker players this county has produced. He also had the reputation as an excellent penman and always used a goose-quill pen which he made himself even after the advent of the steel pointed pen. He wrote all of his records with this sort of pen and his writings in the court files can easily be identified by the writing of the goose-quill pen. He was not re-elected at the next term, probably due to the fact that he had incurred the enmity of many lawyers because Judge Hubbard fined more lawyers for contempt of court than all the other judges of our circuit court put together. It was during Judge Hubbard's term of office that the trial of the famous Baldknobbers occurred in Christian County.
"In 1892, J. T. Neville was elected to succeed Judge Hubbard and served for 18 years, the longest time any judge ever held this bench [to that time] and with his death passed the last of the old line of circuit riding judges of Greene County." (York Johnson's abridgement of Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri)
Greene County became a one county circuit in 1901. It was large enough and generated enough cases to require this. It was also large enough to sustain a good number of lawyers. Some of these lawyers formed the Bar Association of Springfield, Missouri. The stated objectives of the Association were "To maintain the Honor and Dignity of the Profession of Law; to cultivate social intercourse among its members, and for the promotion of legal science and the administration of Justice." The original organization was led by J. T. White, President, together with two vice-presidents, T. J. Delaney and A. W. Lincoln. It had an executive committee and a membership committee. It is not known what the criteria of membership were or how large the organization was at its inception. However, in January of 1914 the Association, in an apparent effort to expand its membership, authorized the admission of all attorneys practicing in Springfield upon payment of a $3.00 initiation fee. As a further incentive the first year's dues were waived. This suggests that the Association was not as large as it wished to be but it is unknown if this incentive was successful in garnering many new members. In fact, the first recorded indication of membership size is referenced in a meeting held in 1949, which was attended by 66 members. This is almost all we know of the history of the Association from 1903 until 1974. Before this date there are virtually no records of the Association with the exception of a list of some of its Presidents (Appendix A). Thus, we know nothing of the works of the Association, the frequency of its meetings, the issues with which it grappled, its adherence to its objectives or the success or failure of its endeavors.
The goal of the Association to promote the administration of justice was sorely tested in the aftermath of the infamous triple lynching that occurred on April 15, 1906. A mob of approximately 6,000 pulled three black youths from their cells where they were being held on suspicion of murder. They were hauled to the center of the public square and hung from the ironically named Liberty Tower, a steel structure surmounted by a small replica of the Statue of Liberty. Thereafter, their bodies were burned. For the first time since the Civil War, the Governor declared martial law and six companies of Missouri Militia arrived to restore order. This event in Springfield was not an isolated affair. Lynchings of black men occurred all across southern Missouri and into Oklahoma where the Tulsa riots resulted in a high death toll and the nearly complete expulsion of the black population there. In light of this environment of hatred, the actions of Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Roscoe Patterson are remarkable. He impaneled a grand jury which indicted several of the leaders of the mob. Before his term of office expired he was able to bring one of the cases to trial, the defendant being a local blacksmith accused of being one of the mob leaders. The jury acquitted. Mr. Patterson's term of office expired before the remaining indictments could be brought to trial. Despite the fact that his efforts were unsuccessful, he still deserves to be honored for faithfully discharging his duties despite highly adverse public opinion. He was elected prosecuting attorney in 1902 and was not reelected. Mr. Patterson went on to become a United States District Attorney, a member of Congress and U.S. Senator. He was the author of the Lindbergh law enacted in response to the famous kidnapping of the son of Charles "Lucky Lindy" Lindbergh. Locally he also represented one of the parties in the famous Missouri Mule case involving $5.00 of property damage to a buggy from an incident that occurred across from the Lander's Theatre in downtown Springfield. (171 S.W. 352).
Prior to these lynchings Greene County had two black attorneys. The first, J. P. "Judge" Callaway was admitted to the Bar in approximately 1870. He had been a barber and had read for the law at night. In 1879 the second black lawyer, T. C. "Bud" Johnston, was admitted. Immediately following the lynchings, approximately 40% of the black population of Springfield fled. Since this event no black attorneys practiced in Springfield until Venus Harry began her practice here in 1998. She has recently departed for a job opportunity in St. Louis.
Until recently women were also underrepresented nationally and in the Greene County Bar. The first woman admitted to the Bar in Greene County was a Mrs. Dodson who, together with her husband J. B., practiced law here before 1900. It is probably indicative of the status of women before they acquired the right to vote that Mrs. Dodson's first name has not preserved for posterity. It took some time for women to gain equal status in society and in the bar. It was not until 1994 that the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association elected its first female president, Virginia Fry. This honor was certainly well deserved as Virginia is universally honored and respected for her integrity and legal ability. The Association has recently been graced by the presidency of Linda Thomas in 2003, another stellar advocate whose interest and energy in office resulted in many successful endeavors including this publication. Today the presence of women advocates, attorneys and judges at all levels of the legal system is commonplace. Currently, women make up 18% of the Greene County Bar.
When the Springfield Bar association was formed in 1903 Greene County's third courthouse, completed during the Civil war, was still in use. In 1909 the formerly separate criminal court became Division II of the circuit court. In 1912 the courthouse at Boonville and Central was completed following a storm of controversy and lawsuits over where the new courthouse should be located. This courthouse served Greene County well for many decades as the population of Springfield and the caseload of its judges continued to grow. The longest serving Circuit Judge in Greene County was Warren L. White who served from 1924 to 1960. Division III was created in 1960 and Division IV in 1976. In 1995 construction of Greene County's present Judicial Facility was completed. It features state of the art security screening and the slowest elevators in the state.
It is known that the name of the organization was changed in the 1940's to the Greene County Bar Association presumably so as not to exclude attorneys practicing in the surrounding cities in Greene County. Whether this was calculated to or did result in an influx of members is unknown. On March 17, 1993, a motion was placed before the Association to change the name yet again to the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association. The stated reason was that Springfield was a better known geographic location than Greene County. Since it is difficult to imagine that any attorney in Springfield would fail to know that Greene County encompasses Springfield, the change of name was obviously designed to increase the name recognition factor of our organization among our less well educated fellow members of the Bar in Kansas City and St. Louis.
In recent interviews conducted with senior members of the Greene County Bar, all commented on the profound impact that the rise of technology has had upon the practice of law. The typewriter was invented in 1867 and by the early 1900's was in common use in Greene County. The telephone, invented in 1876, was introduced in Springfield after the turn of the nineteenth century and was the cause of much excitement as well as frustration. A story is recorded that Oscar Hamlin, an attorney practicing in Springfield, had a phone installed in his home and his office when they were first made available. One day he tried to call home but the line was continually busy or someone else was on the party line, preventing his use. Finally Oscar, in his exasperation, called the operator and informed her, "This damn phone is no good. I'm not gong to have it in my office any longer!" Whereupon, he yanked it off the wall and threw it out his window onto Commercial Street.
The tape recorder was invented in 1898 but the first practical machines for recording dictation did not appear in Greene County until the early 1950's. Those machines featured a wide belt of magnetic material that revolved while the recording head transversed its surface. Typewriters remained the workhorses of the attorney's office. In 1872 the first electric typewriter was invented but it was 80 years before electric typewriters became common. The first electronic typewriter was invented in 1978 and came with a small memory chip that displayed what was being typed before it was actually transferred to paper allowing the operator to go back and correct mistakes before they ruined the whole page. In 1938 the first photocopy machine was invented but it was almost 20 years before it came into widespread use. This invention eliminated the necessity of the bulky and messy carbon papers. Early photocopiers were large, slow, cumbersome and a marvel to all.
By far and away the single most revolutionary office innovation was the introduction of the personal computer with word processing software. These were first created in 1976 and rapidly became readily available. Computers could store any documents that had been entered. These documents could then be transformed into forms and used repeatedly without the necessity of laborious retyping. Today the computer and printer are the workhorses of the law office. Software is constantly being created that allows the assembly of documents, the keeping of calendars and all other aspects of an attorney's practice to be handled on the computer.
The technology of the fax was invented in 1843 (yes) but did not become a practical, feasible devise until the late 1980's. A related invention, the scanner, in tandem with optical character recognition software programs, enabled documents to be entered into the computer without the necessity of it being typed. Already many Federal Bankruptcy Courts require electronic filing of documents and the entire Federal Court system will eventually be a paperless system. The Missouri State Court system is becoming accessible on line. Some agencies allow or even require electronic filings and a future paperless State Court system is practically inevitable.
The Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association acquired its first office and first executive director, York Johnson, in January 1975. He served until his retirement in December 1988 and was followed by Lois Zerrer, who went into private practice in 2001 and was replaced by our current Executive Director, Crista Hogan. It's interesting to note that, although not a requirement of the position, all three Executive Directors have been attorneys and members of the Association prior to taking the position. The Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association now has 687 members and continues to fulfill the objectives the Association established in 1903: "To maintain the Honor and Dignity of the Profession of Law; to cultivate social intercourse among its members, and for the promotion of legal science and the administration of Justice.