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Lawyers Reflect on Anniversary of Desegregation of Kansas City Bar Association


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In order to practice law in Missouri, law school graduates must take a test demonstrating their competence, and are then admitted to the Missouri Bar. But that's just the first step in launching a law career. For many, joining a local bar association is a next step.

Local bar associations have historically been an important places to make key business contacts and develop relationships that are important to career advancement. But until 1955, African Americans and women, were not allowed to belong to the Kansas City Bar Association.

December marked the 55th anniversary of the desegregation of that organization, now called the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association. KCUR's Susan B. Wilson looked into the story of how it happened, and the diversity of the legal community today.

She spoke to UMKC law professor David Achtenberg, whose father Irving Achtenberg was part of the call to desegregate the organization, as well as Judge Howard Sachs, who also called for eliminating the racial barrier at the time.

Former circuit judge Jon Gray (pictured), now a partner at Shook, Hardy and Bacon, weighs in on the diversity of the legal community today.

This story was produced for KC Currents. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents Podcast.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Susan admits that her “first love” was radio, being an avid listener since childhood. However, she spent much of her career in mental health, healthcare administration, and sports psychology (Susan holds a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Bloch School of Business at UMKC.) In the meantime, Wilson satisfied her journalistic cravings by doing public speaking, providing “expert” interviews for local television, and being a guest commentator/contributor to KPRS’s morning drive time show and the teen talk show “Generation Rap.”
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