07:37 AM

President's Page: United, we inspire

Vol. 79, No. 2 / March - April 2023

Journal Lauren Tucker McCubbin
Lauren Tucker McCubbin


Each and every one of you is a valuable member of our community whose presence and participation helps us all flourish. 

I’m reminded of that especially around this time, in light of Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March. Many Black lawyers, women lawyers, and Black women lawyers helped pave the way for our profession today, and continue to do so. Did you know …

  • In 1870, Lemma Barkeloo became the first woman to pass the bar exam in Missouri.1 Barkeloo was only the second women lawyer in the nation, and she later became the first woman lawyer in the United States to try a case in court.2
  • John H. Johnson, Missouri’s first Black lawyer, was admitted to the St. Louis Bar in 1871.3
  • Though Missouri was one of the first states to allow women and Black men to practice law, it wasn’t until 1942 when Dorothy L. Freeman became the first Black woman admitted to practice in our state.4
  • Interestingly, the first female circuit judge in Missouri may not have been a lawyer. Frances Hopkins was appointed probate judge in December 1914 in Clay County after her father died.5 There is no record confirming she was a lawyer, however.6
  • Nearly 85 years after the first Black man was admitted to practice law in Missouri, Hon. Theodore McMillian became Missouri’s first Black circuit judge.7 And Missouri did not get its first Black female judge until 1983, when Hon. Evelyn Baker was appointed by then-Gov. Christopher “Kit” Bond.8
  • The Supreme Court of Missouri gained its first female judge, Hon. Ann Covington, in 19889, and Hon. Ronnie L. White became the first Black Supreme Court judge in Missouri in 1995.10 Just two years ago in 2021, Hon. Robin Ransom made history when she was sworn in as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court of Missouri.11

These important milestones are but a few of the positive advancements toward a bench and bar which reflect the demographic makeup of the communities it serves. Based on 2023 enrollment data, one in three licensed Missouri lawyers is a woman. Nearly 12% of licensed Missouri lawyers report racial and ethnic diversity, including 5% who self-report as Black lawyers. Our profession benefits from the voice of these communities through the bar’s Women in the Profession Committee with 745 members, and the Committee on Diversity with 345 members. The Missouri Bar unites all our diverse members toward the common goal of improving the profession, the law, and the administration of justice on behalf of the public. These gains make me feel inspired and hopeful about the future of our profession.

I’m also inspired each year by the State of the Judiciary, most recently given by Chief Justice Paul Wilson. I love visiting the Capitol on the day it is presented. It is fantastic to watch the legislative branch welcome the judicial branch in a joint session to listen to the chief justice report on behalf of our Missouri courts. As children, we are taught the importance of separation of powers and checks and balances to the proper function of our democracy. As a result, it may be easy to forget that all three branches of our government are united in the common goal of serving and improving the lives of all Missourians.

This event reminds me how important it is for us to communicate with one another. Like our bar, the Capitol is full of people with varied experiences and perspectives who are nonetheless united in their desire to serve the public. Missouri Bar officers had the privilege of meeting with numerous elected officials while at the Capitol, and we listened to each person’s priorities this session. We reminded our elected officials that you – Missouri lawyers – are a valuable resource for information as they craft the laws that you may be asked to enforce, defend, interpret, or challenge.

 Whether in working with other lawyers, elected officials, or the more than 3,000 Court personnel, it is important to remember we are all united in our shared goal to serve the public. It is through that sense of community, we flourish. Thank for what you do each and every day to improve the lives of all Missourians.


1 https://openscholarship.wustl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1447&context=law_journal_law_policy

2 Id.

3 Willie J. Epps Jr., Black Lawyers of Missouri: 150 Years of Progress and Promise, 86 Mo. L. Rev. (2021). Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol86/iss1/5

4 Willie J. Epps Jr., Black Lawyers of Missouri: 150 Years of Progress and Promise, 86 Mo. L. Rev. (2021). Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol86/iss1/5

5 https://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=174560#:~:text=For%20much%20of%20its%20history,her%20father%20the%20day%20before.

6 Id.

7 https://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=174542#:~:text=Courts%201820%20~%202020-,1956%20~%20Theodore%20McMillian%20becomes%20Missouri's%20first%20Black%20circuit%20judge,African%20American%20state%20court%20judge.

8 https://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=174556#:~:text=Several%20other%20Black%20men%20became,Governor%20Christopher%20%22Kit%22%20Bond.

9 https://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=89981

10 https://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=60263#:~:text=At%20the%20highest%20level%20of,the%20Supreme%20Court%20of%20Missouri.

11 https://www.kfvs12.com/2022/05/17/robin-ransom-becomes-first-black-woman-sworn-missouris-supreme-court/