Author:By Edward L. Johnson, Jr.*

Connecticut Bar Journal

Volume 75.

75 CBJ 185.


185CONNECTICUT BAR ASSOCIATION HISTORY: 1975-2000By Edward L. Johnson, Jr.*On June 2, 2000, the Connecticut Bar Association celebrated its 125th anniversary. In that connection, this Connecticut Bar Association History: 1975-2000 was commissioned and will build upon and supplement A History of the First One Hundred Years of the Connecticut Bar Association: 1875-1975.(fn1) This document covers the period from June 1975 to June 2000. It will provide information about the issues, activities, the growth and the people who led the Association and influenced the organization during that time. The focus is on the Association's role in influencing the many changes within the profession that have occurred during this period.

During this time the CBA published a newsletter, magazine, section newsletters and the Connecticut Bar Journal, a scholarly journal. These sources as well as the minutes, the verbatim transcripts of the governing bodies meetings, the annual reports of the president and sections and committees to the House of Delegates and the personal knowledge of the writer have been utilized in drafting this history.

Twenty-five presidents during the last quarter-century have led the Connecticut Bar Association. These outstanding men and women have made important contributions both to the Association and the legal profession in Connecticut. These leaders of the legal profession with considerable support from the members of the House of Delegates, Board of Governors, and the section and committee chairs have added greatly to the Association's impact on the profession and the system of justice in Connecticut. Each of these individuals has had an opportunity to write about the significant happenings in a column in the Connecticut Lawyer, the monthly newsletter and now magazine of the Association. These columns have covered the many important issues of their presidencies and have been an important source of information about the activities of the Association during the last quarter-century. In contrast to the authors of the earlier "History," who lacked materials describing the first century, there is a super-abundance of reference material describing the last quarter-century. In addition, as executive director for much of this period and assistant executive director during the early years of the last quarter-century, I bring a particular perspective to this undertaking.

The Connecticut Bar Association has been substantially influenced by events that have taken place in the political, social, and economic climate in which the Association has operated. There have been a number of significant matters that have extremely important impacts on the CBA and its activities during the last twenty-five years. In many instances, the Association took the opportunity to influence events surrounding the system of justice in Connecticut, including professional ethics, lawyer advertising, improvements to the grievance procedures and the system of justice in Connecticut.

During this time there have been seventy-five sections and committees, each with its own goals and objectives. In addition, from time to time, the president and other officers or members of the governing bodies identified special needs, and task forces were appointed to investigate, evaluate and make recommendations with respect to their particular area of responsibility. Thus, it is not possible to report on even most of the CBA's activities. Consequently, an attempt has been made to identify and describe some of the more important issues with which the CBA has dealt.

  1. Centennial Celebration

    In connection with the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Connecticut Bar Association on June 2, 1875, the CBA undertook a number of events and activities that recognized the importance of the 100-year anniversary and the beginning of the second century of the Association's activities. These undertakings ranged from the symbolic, i.e., the preparation of a new logo, to the more significant, including the drafting of A History of the First One Hundred Years of the Connecticut Bar Association: 1875-1975. A public ceremony was conducted on the south lawn of the Old State House in downtown Hartford on June 2, 1975, the anniversary of the founding of the CBA. Other events included the initiation of a $200,000 fund-raising solicitation to benefit the Connecticut Bar Foundation and a Centennial Ball held on October 25, 1975 in conjunction with that year's CBA Annual Meeting.

    The logo which first appeared in the January-February 1975 issue of the Connecticut Lawyerwas designed to display the symbol for "equal" representing "equal justice through law," a principal goal of the Association throughout its history. The Association continues to utilize this logo, which was created by a nationally recognized designer, William A. Wondriska.

    A History of the First One Hundred Years of the Connecticut Bar Association: 1875-1975(fn2) was written by a group of contributors under the general editorial supervision of Victor M. Gordon, a long-term editor of the Connecticut Bar Journal. It was a monumental effort by seven individuals, four of whom were members of the CBJ Board of Editors, one was a third-year law student, and the final two were members of the CBA staff. The authors had far fewer records available to them than is the case now. The 175-page "History" was published as a separate Connecticut Bar Journal issue, Volume 49, No. 2, June 1975. The "History" captured the essence of the organization, it strengths, activities and shortcomings during its first hundred years.

    On June 2, 1975, Bernard H. Trager, a past president of the CBA and chairman of the CBA founding anniversary committee, presided at the noontime ceremony at the Old State House in Hartford. Lieutenant Governor Robert K. Killian spoke on behalf of Governor Ella T. Grasso, who recognized the CBA for its role in court reform, admission of candidates to the bar and the delivery of legal services. Hartford Mayor George A. Athanson commended the bar for its leadership in the cause of law and justice. Both the lieutenant governor and the mayor of Hartford were CBA members. In his personal remarks, Mr. Killian stated, "I am proud to express my admiration and respect for our bench and bar which has furnished a century of leadership."

    CBA President William K. Cole said, "Our accomplishments mean nothing compared to the opportunities offered by the people for service and participation in the affairs and life of this state. The association is grateful and particularly mindful of its ultimate purpose and responsibility in representing the people of Connecticut and furthering the administration of justice." Chief Justice Charles S. House spoke and encouraged the Association to focus on the challenges of the future. Of interest, Mrs. Douglass B. Wright, a granddaughter of William Hamersley, founder of the Connecticut Bar Association, attended the ceremony and was recognized.

    The public ceremony was held in conjunction with the traditional Midyear Meeting luncheon. Those attending the Midyear Meeting were encouraged to attend the public ceremony. In addition to the large number of Midyear Meeting attendees, a substantial number of local Hartford attorneys and employees on their lunch hour observed the event.

    Supplementing the public ceremony at the Old State House, a week-long exhibit was placed on display in a room at the Old State House that had previously been used as a courtroom. The exhibit of documents and memorabilia was made possible through the willingness and generosity of organizations such as the Connecticut Historical Society, Litchfield Historical Society, Yale Law School, the Connecticut State Library and files and archives of CBA members. More than 1,000 people viewed the exhibit.

    A black-tie centennial anniversary dinner was held on the evening of June 2, 1975 at a Hartford hotel. Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward E. Pringle spoke about the task of improving the court system and assuring justice for all of our citizens. President Cole recognized Bernard H. Trager, chair, and other members of the centennial founding committee.

    In celebration of the centennial of the CBA, the Association initiated, on behalf of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, a $200,000 fund-raising program. More than $108,000 had either been pledged or donated by May 1975. Ultimately these funds would permit the Connecticut Bar Foundation to employ an executive director and initiate a number of programs.

    The final event and climax of the centennial year was the October 1975 Annual Meeting and Centennial Ball. The three-day Annual Meeting included two days of educational programs, and featured former Watergate special prosecutor Leon S. Jaworski as the luncheon speaker. The Honorable Raymond P. Baldwin, former chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, former governor and former United States senator, was the featured speaker at the annual dinner. The third and final day of the Annual Meeting culminated with the Centennial Ball, a black-tie affair held in the newly constructed Hartford Civic Center. Over 800 guests attended this gala affair. The Chief Justice of the United States, Warren E. Burger, the keynote speaker, stated that an independent legal profession and an independent judiciary were among the most important factors in the development of this...

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