Home | Background | Lawyers | Wiley Austin Branton | Contact
J. Gray Lucas was born in Marshall, Texas, on March 11, 1864, but obtained his basic education in the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), Arkansas, schools, where he received a B.A. from Branch Normal College (now University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) in 1884.
As a law student at Boston University School of Law, J. Gray Lucas was quoted in newspapers as saying that Arkansas was a land of opportunity for Blacks. He graduated from law school with “high honors” in 1887. Lucas was admitted to practice in Arkansas in 1887, after a “rigorous” bar examination in which he earned a perfect score. He was appointed assistant prosecuting attorney in Pine Bluff shortly thereafter. He was reappointed to that position by the next prosecuting attorney.
An active Republican, Lucas served on state, county and federal central committees, including the committee for the 11th Judicial District. He was appointed Commissioner (akin to today’s federal magistrates) for the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Arkansas about 1890.
In 1891, Lucas was elected to the State House of Representatives from Jefferson county, where he was instrumental in opposition to the segregationist “Separate Coach” bill. Although one of the youngest legislators at that time, he was selected to make the primary speech against the bill. Despite all efforts, the bill passed. Possibly as a consequence of this defeat for Black Arkansans, Lucas left the state soon thereafter, moving to Chicago.
He was admitted on motion to the Illinois bar, October 28, 1893, the 22nd Black lawyer in that state. In Chicago, he practiced criminal defense law and appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court four times. He was listed in the 1899 and 1901 Chicago Business Directories (pp. 2215 and 2380, respectively), located at 160 Washington Street and then 59 Dearborn Street. During the 1930s, he left the Republican Party to join the Democrats. In 1934, he was appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney of Cook County (Illinois) by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He also held the positions of assistant corporation counsel of the City of Chicago and assistant recorder of deeds in Cook County, the first African-American to do so. Lucas was married to Olive Gulliver, with whom he had one child, Elaine Louise. He died in 1944.
Sources: Judith Kilpatrick, “(EXTRA)Ordinary Men: African-American Lawyers and Civil Rights in Arkansas Before 1950,” 53 Ark. Law Rev. 299, 303 n7, 304, 307, 330-31, 333-35, 338, 345 (2000); 1899 Chicago Business Directory; 1901 Chicago Business Directory; Blake J. Wintory, African-American Legislators in the Arkansas General Assembly, 1868-1893, LXV Ark. Hist. Q. 385 (Wint 2006); Who’s Who in Colored America 242 (1929); Gatewood, Willard B., Jr., "Arkansas Negroes in the 1890's Documents," XXXIII Arkansas Historical Quarterly 293-325 (Winter 1974, photograph); Chicago Legal News, Vol. XXIX, 10/31/1896, No. 10;
Copyright ©2003 Judith Kilpatrick, all rights reserved