The John Rowe Chapter of the National Bar Association was organized in August of 1978 with the adoption of its by-laws at the annual meeting of the National Bar Association in Hollywood, Florida. The chapter was originally named the John W. Rowe Chapter of the National Bar Association after John W. Rowe, the first African American attorney to practice law in Lexington, Kentucky in 1938. The original members sought and obtained written permission from Rowe’s family to use his name. Rowe, along with Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter, both of New York City, and James A. Crumlin of Louisville, successfully represented Lyman T. Johnson in his suit against the University of Kentucky following its denial of his application to and enrollment in the Graduate School of The University of Kentucky solely on the basis of race. See Johnson v. Board of Trustees of University of Kentucky, et al, 83 F.Supp. 707 (E.D. Ky. 1949). John W. Rowe and his wife Hattie H. Rowe, who was the director of Douglass Park in 1939, lived at 860 Georgetown Street, Lexington, Kentucky. Both were very active in the community.
Minutes from the early 1980s reflect that the founding members of the Chapter were Donnie H. White, Bill Shelton, Jesse Crenshaw, James Berry, Theodore Berry, Willie Peale, David Olinger, Annette Cunningham, Agyenim Boateng, Reggie Thomas, Leroy Soul, Michael Gray and Shirley Cunningham. David Olinger remains active today and has assisted the Chapter with memorializing its history. The Chapter was inactive for a few years but re-organized and re-energized in the late 1980s under the leadership of John McNeill and Diane Minniefield, both of whom are still active today. The middle initial was inadvertently omitted from the Chapter’s name when it re-organized and is now registered as The John Rowe Chapter of the National Bar Association. However, its importance is no less significant. Its members are proud of the work done in the community to date. Our motto is “Advancing a legacy of service and promise of justice.”