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TCL > January 2004 Issue > Bar News Highlight

January 2004       Vol. 33, No. 1       Page  5
Bar News

Bar News Highlight
by Diane Hartman

Sam Cary Bar "Living the Dream" Celebration

The voice of George "Skip" Gray takes on a lilt when describing the Sam Cary Bar Association’s ("SCBA") first-ever dinner fund raiser last fall. It was called "Living the Dream: A Fund Raising Dinner in Joyous Celebration of our African American Judiciary."

The event was billed as an evening of "Jazz, Jambalaya and the Judiciary," and it attracted 550 people to Mile High Station in Denver.

"We originally planned for about 350 people, then during the final week before the event, we had so much interest that we had to stop selling tickets, open the mezzanine level, and really scramble. It was close quarters and that led to an intimate feeling, which was part of the success of the evening," said Gray, current SCBA president.

All twenty-five African-American judges, including Oswald Charles Abernethy and Gilbert A. Alexander (now deceased), were honored. Among the attendees were Judge Wiley Y. Daniel, the first African American to be appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado; former Justice Gregory K. Scott, the first African American to be appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court (who traveled from California for the occasion); and Judge James C. Flanigan, the first African-American Deputy District Attorney, Colorado Municipal Court Judge, and Colorado District Court Judge. (At age 90, Judge Flanigan continues to serve in the capacity of Senior Judge.)

Twenty of the twenty-five judges honored at the 2003
SCBA "Living the Dream" gala event.

 

Denver’s newly appointed Manager of Public Safety, Alvin J. LaCabe, Jr., gave the keynote address. Using Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy as the backdrop, LaCabe told the story of his own journey from detective for the New Orleans Police Department, trial attorney at Denver’s Davis Graham & Stubbs law firm, Deputy District Attorney in the Denver District Attorney’s Office, senior litigation counsel in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, to Denver’s Manager of Public Safety.

 

Gray says: "Al was a compelling speaker. It was masterful that he included other members in the audience who were being honored and told parts of their stories—such as the experience of Denver District Judge Larry Naves as a pallbearer for the three girls who were killed in the Birmingham church bombing. As Al told his story, each of us remembered the pain, the perils, and the joy of our own stories. We all smiled a little, laughed a little, and cried a little. Judging from the explosion of applause, the hugs, the smiles, and the lingering conversations afterward, I believe we all loved each other a little more; and we did it while celebrating our journey and remembering our dreams. When Al finished speaking, we were, for one brief moment, one body, one people; joyous in our diversity; humbled by the journey, yet triumphant in our own successes."

Gary Jackson (left) and Skip Gray (right), pose
with the event’s featured speaker, Alvin LaCabe.

Others in attendance were sitting and former justices and judges, elected officials, deans of the two Colorado law schools, and the editor of The Denver Post. Leaders of other local bar associations, newly appointed and former city officials, and many other dignitaries also helped to make the event a success.

The gala event exceeded the fund raising goals set by the SCBA. Half of the funds raised will go to the SCBA Scholarship Endowment Fund and half will be used for operating expenses.

Event organizer April Jones talks with committee
members at the event.

The SCBA was founded in 1971 by Norman Early, Daniel Muse, Raymond Dean Jones, Gary Jackson, Phillip Jones, Billy Lewis, Alfred Harrell, Marilyn Cason, and the late King Trimble. At the time, fewer than fifteen African-American lawyers were practicing in Colorado.

Gray says the SCBA is in the midst of a transition. "We are building bridges from our past to our future. During my administration, we have energized our older members and empowered our newer members. This gala event is just one example of the fusion and energy we’ve created this year."

Early in 2003, Gray says CBA’s Executive Director Chuck Turner asked why the SCBA wasn’t hosting an annual fund raiser. "Chuck put me and Homecoming Chair April Jones in touch with other specialty bar chairs to talk about the successes they were having. April was pumped! We discussed the idea over the next several months. Finally, she called me in August and said, ‘I’m ready. Let’s put this together.’" April’s Homecoming Committee, which included Stephanie O’Malley, Judge Claudia Jordan, Dianne Briscoe, Jason Cuerdon, Andrew Rudolph, Joni Johnson Powell, and Alexis Holdman, became energized. They decided to honor the African-American judiciary and found a small intimate venue for the occasion. "We then recruited Gary Jackson to head a host committee of experienced, successful lawyers who had developed wonderful contacts throughout the city. April was the brains, energy, and logistics. Gary was the mentor and the resources. By empowering the vision of April and her committee and by using the contacts and resources provided by Gary and his committee, we fused youthful zeal with experience to build a wonderful bridge from our past to our future. In the process, we created a splendid celebration and a stronger organization."

The next Living the Dream Dinner in Joyous Celebration with the Sam Cary Bar Association is scheduled for Thursday October 28, 2004. Save the date!

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