Judson Whitlocke Lyons was an extraordinary legal pioneer who paved the way for all Morehouse Men who have followed his courageous path in the legal profession.
He was born into slavery in Richmond County, Georgia in 1860. Following Emancipation, he taught himself how to read and write, and succeeded in gaining admission into Augusta Theological Institute and Atlanta Baptist Seminary, the predecessor institutions to Morehouse College. Following graduation, he enrolled in Howard Law School, from which he graduated with honors in 1884. In November 1884, Judson Lyons made history by being admitted into the Georgia Bar, thereby becoming the first Morehouse Man to practice law.
Judson Lyons engaged in a career of outstanding service and leadership that set the standard for generations of Morehouse Men who pursued legal careers. He was a founder of one of Georgia’s first Civil Rights organizations – the Georgia Equal Rights Association. He collaborated with W. E. B. DuBois and John Hope during the nascent stages of the Niagara Movement and married Jane Hope, the sister of John Hope – the first African-American President of Morehouse College.
He was one of the most prominent African-American leaders of the Reconstruction era Republican Party and was a delegate to two of its national conventions. In 1898, he was appointed by President William McKinley to become Registrar of the United States Treasury. While serving in this rarefied position for eight years, he had the distinction of being one of the highest ranking African-American in government at that time. To this day, he has the distinction of being one of only five African-Americans whose signatures have appeared on U.S. currency.
Following his national service, Judson Lyons returned to Georgia in 1906, where he became President of Haines Institute in Augusta, a private school for African-Americans. He continued to serve the community until his death in 1924 at the age of 64. His legacy lives on in the hearts of all members of the Judson Lyons Society who seek to emulate his exemplary example of pursuing legal careers of excellence, service and dedication to the community.
Morehouse graduates, trained in the law, are lawyers, judges, prosecutors, professors, businessmen and other distinguished professionals. We all inherit the mantle of Judson Lyons, Morehouse’s first lawyer. Mr. Lyons was admitted to the Georgia bar in 1884. He later became the Register of the U.S. Treasury, the highest ranking African-American public official. We honor his legacy.
Our mission is to engage and support Morehouse students for entry and opportunities in law. This is our call to action.
The Prelaw Institute (“PLI”) is named after legendary Political Science professor and Morehouse man Abraham Davis who trained and mentored countless Morehouse lawyers. The PLI is designed to expose students to myriad legally based enrichment opportunities, including internships, a lawyer speaker series, mentorship, and LSAT prep courses. Students benefit immensely from the resources provided by the Judson Lyons Society.
The Abraham Davis Pre-Law Institute provides an LSAT prep course, which makes a tremendous difference. A larger percentage of students are receiving admission to their first choice for law school, as well as lucrative scholarships.
The PLI has also spearheaded an aggressive internship matching program. For example, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office has set up a pipeline program which affords scholarships for 12 students per semester. Additionally, Judge Eric Dunaway secures one Morehouse intern each semester for the Fulton County Superior Court, and Judge Stephen Dillard secures one intern each summer in the Georgia Court of Appeals. Students also participate in elite summer programs such as the Harvard/NYU TRIALS program and the Ronald H. Brown Pre-Law Institute at St. John’s University. Last summer, every pre-law student that requested either an internship or the opportunity to participate in a summer program was able to receive placement.
Lastly, our program supports the Morehouse College Law School Fair. In 2017, the fair included more than 150 different law schools from across the nation. This was the largest law school fair in Morehouse history.
With over 100 active pre-law students, our program is more robust than ever. We now host law school panel discussions during both semesters of each year that cover topics ranging from law school admissions, LSAT practical tips, resume workshops, competing for law school scholarships, and how to select law schools. Harvard, Berkeley, NYU, Northwestern, Howard, University of Ohio, UNLV, and many more law schools host lectures on our campus to introduce students to their law schools, and in many instances, to provide information on their respective diversity initiatives. We also offer an impressive speaker series that includes politicians, judges, CEO’s, general counsels, and community activists to provide our students a wide breadth of experiences and exposure.
Additionally, we continue to support the Morehouse Moot Court team. In 2015, the Morehouse Moot Court Team were national champions. The team is led by JLS Board Member, attorney and adjunct professor Winfield Murray, who continues to stress intellectual rigor and superior academic and oratorical skills.
JLS provides ongoing mentorship to pre-law students at Morehouse College. That mentorship begins while they are undergraduate students but continues into their matriculation through law school. By capitalizing on Morehouse’s strong network of attorney alums we are in the process of matching current students with mentors that either attended the same law school they hope to attend, practice the type of law they hope to practice, or have some other connection to foster an ongoing mentor/mentee relationship. This is especially important where some of our students are first generation college students and/or will become the first lawyers in their family. These students benefit immensely from having African-American attorneys that will serve as a guide while navigating foreign waters.
Some of our most notable cases of mentorship include Derrick Parker, Justin Henderson and TyShawn Key. Mr. Parker was the 2018 class valedictorian and received offers of admission from all of the top fourteen law schools in the country. In the end, his decision came down to either Harvard or Yale. JLS paired Mr. Parker with several ivy league law school trained attorneys to assist him in making his decision and to afford him the opportunity to ask all of his questions to a group that was not biased and genuinely had his best interest at heart. He decided to attend Harvard Law. Justin Henderson struggled with determining the best law school for him to attend given the numerous financial award packages he received. Mr. Henderson earned the highest LSAT score from Morehouse in 2018. Accordingly, he received scholarships from most of the law schools he applied to. JLS mentorship helped him to weigh scholarships and scholastic endeavors from schools ranging from George Washington Law to Berkeley Law. He will attend Berkeley Law in the fall. TyShawn Key received mentorship throughout the application process. As a first generation college student and a student that battled significant socio-economic barriers, Mr. Key needed direction with selecting a law school that would provide him with the greatest scholastic resources while remaining an economically viable option. Mr. Key will attend the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) in the fall. Not only does UDC have amazing resources but attending law school in DC will provide Mr. Key with a host of resources and opportunities unique to DC.
Moot Court is comprised of 20-25 students each academic year that are interested in becoming future attorneys. Moot Court espouses the tenets of courtroom decorum, courtroom procedures, understanding case law, understanding statutes, understanding policy initiatives, and arguing appellate matters before a pseudo United States Supreme Court. Students are charged with writing case briefs, legal memorandums, and delivering superb legal arguments all under the watchful adjudication of practicing lawyers and sitting judges. Team members are expected to argue cases in as close of parity as members of the bar as possible. Since its inception the Morehouse Moot Court Team has delivered stellar results.
Mr. Strong is currently the project principal for public policy consulting engagements with several state and local governmental entities.
Chief judge Phipps has served on Georgia’s Judicial Nominating Commission, The Georgia Supreme Court Commission on Racial and Ethnic Bias, and The Georgia Indigent Defense Council Advisory Committee. He is a former member of the State Bar Board of Governors and past president of the Dougherty Circuit Bar Association. Judge Herbert Phipps retired as Chief Judge in 2017
Juan R. Thomas is Of Counsel to Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., and is the founder and principal of the Thomas Law Group. Mr. Thomas' practice includes the following specialties: real estate/estate planning, labor and employment, and family law. In addition, Mr. Thomas provides counseling and training to firm clients in areas involving personnel, collective bargaining, and business development matters. Mr. Thomas is the Immediate Past President of the National Bar Association (NBA) having served as the Association’s 75th President during the 2017-18 bar year. The National Bar Association is the largest Association of African-American lawyers, judges, and law students in the United States with a professional network of over 65,000 people..
In 1995, Dempsey was then appointed to the Fulton County Superior Court by Governor Zell Mill where he presided over civil and felony criminal cases. Dempsey was also instrumental in the development and implementation of the Fulton County Family Court. Dempsey has presided over many high-profile cases throughout his career including the case involving the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and allegations of misspending by its leadership. Dempsey retired in May after twenty-six years on the bench.
JLS funding is dependent on the continuing investment of Morehouse attorneys and friends. We are making a difference for future Morehouse lawyers. All donations are tax deductible. Your generous donation provides support for JLS programming, including LSAT preparation, Mentor Program expenses, Law School Fair activities, Moot Court, website maintenance, scholarships and program administration. Funds are disbursed directly by JLS.
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P O Box 52687 Atlanta, Georgia 30355