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Fact Check: A. T. Walden

Swearing in of A. T. Walden
New Georgia Encyclopedia editors continually update the resource in order to keep the encyclopedia's 2,200+ articles fresh and accurate. Here, they report on recent interesting changes.
A. T. Walden first rose to prominence as the primary lawyer behind the push to equalize pay for black Georgia teachers in the early 1940s. He was also a founder of the Atlanta Negro Voters League, the first black judge in Georgia since Reconstruction, and a founder of the Gate City Bar Association, which still exists today. An NGE reader asked us to elaborate on the Gate City Bar Association’s work. After some investigation, we thought the Association's work was worth sharing here in detail.
The Gate City Bar Association was founded in 1948. Walden and nine other lawyers founded the group in order to encourage prospective black lawyers to attend high-quality law schools and to promote and plan professional seminars, which ensured that lawyers were familiar with the latest legal trends. This sort of professional development was sorely needed in the black legal community. Bar associations were segregated, black lawyers had to receive special permission to use law libraries, and white lawyers and judges often treated black lawyers with disdain. Worst of all, potential black clients knew that black lawyers would face such discrimination, so they would instead hire white lawyers.
The Gate City Bar Association was meant to counteract these professional and social inequalities. By Walden’s own reckoning, they were successful. The Association hosted the annual meeting of the American Bar Association in Atlanta in 1948. Black lawyers attended talks like "Problems of the Negro Lawyer" and "Reciprocal Obligations of Negro Communities and Their Lawyers." Thurgood Marshall keynoted with a "Civil Rights Summary." More than 350 members of the National Black Bar attended.
To this day, the Gate City Bar Association still organizes professional seminars and networking opportunities. It was one of Walden’s great accomplishments, and its inclusion in his NGE article helps illustrate the unique problems faced by the southern black lawyers of the civil rights era. We added information about the Gate City Bar Association to the third paragraph of Walden’s article.
This piece originally appeared in the Georgia Humanities newsletter. You can sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox here
Interested in suggesting your own revisions? Visit our Contact Us page. If you found our A. T. Walden article interesting, then you might also like our articles on Black Suffrage in the Twentieth Century and Horace T. Ward. Make sure you also check out our special collection on the Black Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.
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