Nearly six decades ago, Black people couldn’t even join the Memphis Bar Association, now Tannera Gibson is ushering in a new era as the first Black woman president in it’s 147-year-history.
According to the Daily Memphian, Gibson is a partner at Burch, Porter & Johnson, the firm where she also made history as the first Black woman to hold the title. Now in another pioneering accomplishment, she has been named as the first Black woman president of the Memphis Bar Association. While the organization has had two Black male presidents in the past, Gibson is the first Black woman, an honor she does not take lightly. In her first presidential speech, she noted a letter from the firm’s late partner, Lucius Burch, who wrote to the local chapter of the bar in 1963, urging them to racially integrate the association.
“It was a bit jarring, to be honest, that no one who looks like me has ever held this position in 147 years…It’s equally impactful to receive the gavel from Peter Gee. No one looked like you, either,” said Gibson.
The veteran lawyer will be taking the reins from Gee, who made history as the first Asian American president of the association during his appointment.
Gibson continued to emphasize the relevance of Burch’s 1963 letter to today’s times and the importance of diverse leadership in the association as the catalyst for bringing diverse perspectives.
“It’s the audacity to believe that by bringing diverse voices to the table, to the leadership, we can advance together. I truly believe with all of us, anything is possible,” Gibson said.
Today she received the gavel and became the 1st African American Female President of the Memphis Bar Association…in its 147-year history. Where black people couldn’t join just 58 years ago. pic.twitter.com/GctwJ2RS8fadvertisement
— grannystanding4Truth (@granny_st) December 4, 2021
She credited her mentors, Les Jones and Bruce McMullen, with giving her an opportunity in this sector, while praising Gee for his leadership and growing the membership during the COVID-19 pandemic. In her new role, Gibson hopes to launch two major initiatives, a leadership program for law school students, and the formation of a President’s Council, made up of seven or nine lawyers who will choose and complete one big picture goal annually.
Gibson said she was inspired to create the Council based on her work with an elderly woman who she helped to prevent the loss of her home due to a tax sale. It is her hope to continue impactful work like that in alignment with the association’s mission of providing professional development, pro bono legal assistance for those in need and summer internships for high school students.
Congratulations Tannera! Because of you, we can!
Photo Courtesy of Tannera Gibson/The Tennessee Tribune