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Lloyd G. Wheeler came to Arkansas from Illinois. He is said to have graduated from Union Law College in Chicago, and was the first African-American attorney admitted to practice in that state, on April 20, 1869. One newspaper reported that the Supreme Court and the examiners thought he was Spanish but, after an investigation, the admission held. He is listed in the 1871 Chicago Directory in practice with someone named "Hook" at 73 La Salle Street.
Wheeler was admitted to the bar in Arkansas in 1871. Wheeler practiced law full-time, which was unusual at that time. In 1872, the Little Rock (Pulaski County) City Directory listed him in a law partnership with an A.D. Jones. In 1873 He joined Mifflin Wistar Gibbs in a partnership. Gibbs described Wheeler as a "popular and an able lawyer, with considerable practice." The partnership lasted only a year or so. A Chicago legal newspaper reports that he was the attorney for Pulaski County for one term and served for one year on the Pulaski County Board of Commissioners.
Although no published opinions involving the firm have been discovered, newspaper reports indicated that the firm of Wheeler & Gibbs handled the only conviction under the Civil Rights Act of 1873. On June 2, 1873, they successfully sued a Little Rock barkeeper for refusing to serve African-Americans Richard A. Dawson, W. Hines Furbush (both state legislators and lawyers), James R. Roland, and L.G. Wheeler, himself. The barkeeper was assessed fines and court costs of $46.80.
Wheeler left Arkansas for Chicago in 1879, to take over the business affairs of John Jones, a relative of his wife. John Jones was prominent in that city and his property was worth a fortune. It included a tailoring business and real estate in downtown Chicago. Wheeler became involved in a number of civic organizations and in politics. He helped to establish a Chicago branch of Booker T. Washington's National Negro Business Men's League. Wheeler does not appear to have remained in the practice of law after leaving Arkansas. He is listed in the 1899 and 1901 Chicago Business Directories as a "Tailor" doing business at 119 Dearborn Street. About 1903, business problems led him to leave Chicago for Tuskegee, Alabama, where he was on the staff of Booker T. Washington's Institute. Wheeler died about 1909 in Alabama.
Sources: 2 Chicago Legal News 44, 11/6/1869; 29 Chicago Legal News 75, 10/31/1896, "The Colored Bar of Chicago;" provided by the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission (John A. Lupton, Executive Director/Director of History Programs); Judith Kilpatrick, "(EXTRA)Ordinary Men: African-American Lawyers and Civil Rights in Arkansas Before 1950," 53 Ark. Law Rev. 299, 303 n7, 307, 320, 322, 337, 355 n420 (2000); Samuel S. Taylor, Survey of Negroes in Little Rock and North Little Rock 31 (1941); 1871 Chicago Directory, Vol. 14, p. 941; 1899 and 1901 Chicago Business Directories, pp. 1928 and 2073, respectively; Allan H. Spear, black Chicago, the making of a negro ghetto, 1890-1920 (1967), pp. 66, 86,108-09,111; Geraldine R. Segal, Blacks in the Law, Philadelphia and the Nation 132 (1983); Dempsey J. Travis, An Autobiography of BLACK CHICAGO 10 (1981); notes of telephone conversation with Lloyd B. Wheeler, III, Chicago, 11/19/2001; e-mail from Blake Wintory, 10/7/2008;
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