We invite you to explore our heritage below by reading our key historical documents, a biography of our namesake, and a history of black lawyers in San Diego.
In 2014, the Board and the members of the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association voted to create a 501(c)(6) organization to increase the organization’s political and civic voice in the San Diego community. As a result, the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association is the 501(c)(6) membership organization and the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Foundation is the 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to raising money for the scholarship fund.
The Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association was originally established in 1976 as the Association of Black Attorneys of San Diego County (“ABASDC”). In 1982, under the presidency of Daniel Weber, ABASDC formally changed its name to the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association (“EBGBA”) in recognition of the Honorable Earl B. Gilliam, the first African- American United States District Court judge for the Southern District of California. Judge Gilliam was also the first African-American to serve as a San Diego County Superior Court Judge.
In the mid-1970s there were very few Black attorneys in San Diego County. On a Saturday morning a small group of the ones who were here met up at Emma’s Pancake House at 54th and El Cajon. When they finished the meeting they all went out to go about their day and it started to rain. The men all began running to get out of the rain and no sooner had they started then a police car came up and stopped all of them. The policeman said there had been a robbery in the area and these men matched the description of the suspect. After being harassed for several minutes, upon being asked for identification all but one of the men produced their California State Bar cards. Surprised but apparently not deterred the policeman arrested the one man, attorney Willard Anthony, who did not have his bar card with him.
The others called the only local judge they could, Hon. Earl B. Gilliam. Judge Gilliam got Mr. Anthony immediately released and his record expunged. They were also able to determine that no such robbery had been reported and made sure that the conduct of the police was noted in each officer’s personnel file. As a result of this experience, the men came together to form the Association of Black Attorneys of San Diego County. The organization was set up primarily to serve the community and to advocate for issues impacting Black attorneys. After several years of operation, at the urging of member Daniel Weber, who later became a judge, the organization changed its name to honor the first African American to serve on the bench in San Diego, Hon. Earl B. Gilliam.
Today, many members of the organization have gone on to successful careers as lawyers and judges and in other pursuits. And our challenge continues to be how to make sure that success for some translates into opportunity for all members of the community.
The above information is paraphrased from a speech given by Daniel Weber’s widow, Assemblywoman for the 79th Assembly District Dr. Shirley Weber, on November 9, 2013 at the 37th Annual Awards & Scholarship Dinner
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The Earl B. Gilliam Bar Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and gifts made to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Please click here to donate today.