The History of NOVABAA
The history of the African American attorney in the Commonwealth is a rich tapestry of the stories of struggle and perseverance that our forebearers for hundreds of years. Indeed, from the moment that Walthal G. Wynn (the first African American attorney in Virginia) was admitted to the Bar in 1871, to the Bar's most recent admittees, African American attorneys have fought for the privilege to be recognized as equals, and treated with the same dignity and respect as their counterparts.
Prior to the establishment of NOVABAA in 1983, there were no local bar associations in Northern Virginia for African American attorneys, and equally few "safe spaces." The precipitating event giving rise to NOVABAA's creation occurred at a local bar association where a prominent attorney speaking during the program stated that he had been "working as hard as a n*gger" to rapturous applause from the attendees. At that moment, a spark was lit in the hearts of the handful of African American attorneys to create an organization that would permit African American attorneys to gather together to push one another to advance further professionally, as well as to support each other personally.
The spark of hope between a handful of young ambitious attorneys has blossomed into an organization that has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. From a handful of attorneys meeting over dinner, to an organization numbering over 140 judges, lawyers and law students, NOVABAA has much to be proud of. In 1983 there was only one African American judge in Northern Virginia, Hon. Thomas Monroe in Arlington County. Currently, NOVABAA can boast of having members serving as judges on the Eastern District of Virginia, the Virginia Court of Appeals, numerous Circuit Courts, General District Courts and Juvenile Courts. NOVABAA has been abundantly blessed, and so has its attorneys.
The above video recounts from several of the founding members the humble beginnings of NOVABAA, along with the strides its taken in the past nearly four decades, as well as where the founding members would like to see it go in the future. Our panel was moderated by Hon. Dontae L. Bugg of Fairfax County Circuit Court, and consisted of: (1) Hon. Rossie D. Alston, (2) Hon. Noland B. Dawkins, (3) Gerald Bruce Lee, (4) Hon. William T. Newman, and (5) Ms. Inga Watkins. We hope that you will enjoy the program as much as we enjoyed putting it together.