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This home page contains an introduction, a request for help with the project, and a brief biography of the principal investigator.


My book, There When We Needed Him: Wiley Austin Branton, Civil Rights Warrior, may be ordered online from University of Arkansas Press.

Desegregating the University of Arkansas School of Law: L. Clifford Davis and the Six Pioneers from Arkansas Historical Quarterly, 68:2 (2009). (By permission of the Quarterly.)

Wiley Austin Branton and the Voting Rights Struggle from University of Arkansas Little Rock Law Review, 26:4 (2004). (By permission of the Review..)

(Extra)ORDINARY MEN: African-American Lawyers and Civil Rights in Arkansas Before 1950 from Arkansas Law Review, 53:299 (2000).


Welcome to the Arkansas Black Lawyers project. On this site, you will find background information, general biographical information on lawyers known to have practiced between 1865 and 1950, detailed information on the legal career of Wiley Austin Branton (1923-1988), as well as contact information.


This project evolved from questions raised while researching the life of Wiley Austin Branton, a graduate of the University of Arkansas who devoted his life to civil rights work.  An early question was, "Who were Branton’s role models?"  For a Black man in the South, some model seemed necessary when contemplating the practice of law.  Answering that question led to the discovery of 67 Black men who had been admitted to practice law in the State of Arkansas before 1950, when Branton began to study law at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Most of those earlier lawyers had been forgotten, even by the Black community in Arkansas. The article resulting from that inquiry is available on this site.  Since the article was published in 2000, another 28 lawyers have been discovered.  For many of them, however, little biographical information is known.

This web site is intended to serve two purposes:

  • First, to make available to the public currently known information about Arkansas’ early Black lawyers and about Wiley Austin Branton.
  • Second, to encourage your contribution to the expanding information database.

Help Needed

Anyone reading this publication who has information they feel will be helpful to this project should contact me.

About Judith Kilpatrick

Judith Kilpatrick was a Professor and Associate Dean at the University of Arkansas School of Law, Fayetteville, where she taught from 1994-2009. She taught in the areas of professional responsibility and lawyering skills (interviewing, counseling, negotiation, alternative dispute resolution, mediation and law practice management). She also directed a Mediation Project that provides low-cost and pro bono mediation to citizens of Northwest Arkansas. She received her J.D. degree (1975) from the University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, and LL.M. and J.S.D. (1992, 1999) degrees from Columbia University School of Law in New York. Prior to arriving in Arkansas, she taught for three years in the Lawyering Program at New York University, was a visiting professor in Paris, France, for three summers, directed the Center for Trial and Appellate Advocacy at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, produced CLE programs for trial lawyers at California Continuing Education of the Bar in Berkeley, and was in private practice with a litigation firm in San Francisco. Her current research interests are in legal history. She published a biography of Wiley Austin Branton, one of the first African-American graduates of the University of Arkansas School of Law, and has written several articles on African-American lawyers in Arkansas. Other writing primarily has been in the area of professional responsibility.

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