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The History of the Toledo Bar Association

The Toledo Bar Association started in 1878 with fifty-three members, listed in a hand written ledger—names recognized today as among Toledo’s civic and industrial leaders. Unfortunately, many of those old records have been lost, but enough is known to make it clear that, through the years, members of the Association have worked to improve the judicial system and the legal system, doing what was needed, from helping to revise the municipal code to promoting the appointment of a Federal Judge.

By 1925, membership had increased to four hundred and the following year it became necessary to appoint a member as a part-time paid secretary, with numerous duties ranging from sending out committee notices to handling requests for employment. Eventually handling the affairs of the Association became too time consuming for the elected officers, even with a part-time secretary. In 1949 a full-time executive secretary was engaged and, complete with ribbon cutting ceremony, headquarters were opened in the Chamber of Commerce Building. At about this same time, the Lawyer Referral Service was begun. In 1974 came the move to the Commodore Perry Arcade. July 15, 1983 marked the beginning of a new era as the Toledo Bar Association moved into its own building at 311 North Superior.

The Toledo Bar Association has always responded to the needs of the community: in 1917 lawyers were made available as advisors to draft boards and to registrants; Legal Aid began with a group of volunteers helping those in need; the Public Defender system was sponsored by the Association. Never to be forgotten was the great effort put forth in defense of “unpopular causes” in the fifties. Volunteers responded to the courts’ request to serve as defense lawyers in criminal cases when the courts were without funds to pay fees. The list could go on and on.

In 1934 the Junior Bar Association was formed by a group of young lawyers. Among its activities have been the Barristers’ Ball and the famous Gridiron Show. In 1951, the Toledo Bar Foundation was founded, its purpose, broadly stated, “Fostering and maintaining the honor and integrity of the profession of law; improving and facilitating the administration of justice.” The Foundation funds worthwhile causes as well as giving financial aid to students and to indigent lawyers. Another important organization began in 1957—the Toledo Bar Association Auxiliary, whose membership consists of the wives and widows of Association members.

Bar committees have long been hard at work in such fields as law reform, court administration, professional ethics and continuing legal education. Their efforts are vital to the Board of Trustees in determining matters of policy. Inter-professional committees have worked with those of other professions for the purpose of solving mutual problems.

Through the years, members have been active in both the American Bar and the Ohio State Bar Associations, a number having served as president of the State Bar. Without the need of a constitutional amendment, the Association elected its first woman president in 1977.

The practice of law does not remain fixed. Changes which have been carefully considered locally and nationally in the past few years will be implemented in the coming years. These changes will present a challenge to all members of the profession. As it continues into its second one hundred years, The Toledo Bar Association, with approximately 1500 members, can look back with pride and look forward with confidence.

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