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William E. Gay was born in 1880 in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1906, he married Carrie Hobson, with whom he had three children, only one of whom, Willie Edna, survived infancy. Willie Edna died at the age of about ten years. At the time of the 1910 census, he worked as a mail clerk for the railway and owned his own home. He also spent some time as a teacher. Carrie died in December 1910 and he married Bertha Watkins in 1915. William and Bertha Gay had eight children together. Gay is said to have attended classes at Fisk University, Philander Smith College, and Tuskegee Institute.
He may have received his legal education at the University of Chicago. Gay was listed as an attorney in the 1916 Little Rock (Pulaski County, Arkansas) City Directory, when he began a three-year partnership with attorney Waters McIntosh, located at 117 E. 3d Street in Little Rock. He was admitted to practice before the state supreme court on July 14, 1919, which means his earlier admission was to practice in the Pulaski County Circuit Court.
Family history states that Gay and McIntosh helped in some way with the Elaine Riots cases that began in 1919. Gay is not mentioned in the legal pleadings, and his participation likely was through the Citizens Defense Fund Commission which helped to channel African American community support for the defendants in that case. Gay was an early member of the first Arkansas branch of the NAACP in Little Rock in 1924. Gay's listings ended in 1934. He died on August 15, 1936.
Sources: Judith Kilpatrick, “(EXTRA)Ordinary Men: African-American Lawyers and Civil Rights in Arkansas Before 1950,” 53 Ark. Law Rev. 299, 347 n349, 373, 374 n581, 375, 380 n626 (2000); Descendants Elena Gay (e-mail dtd 3/9/2008) and Sidney B. Williams, Jr. (ltr dtd 3/6/2000); 1910 U.S. Census for Arkansas; Papers of the NAACP, Part 12, Reel 4, p. 851 (Pledges of Little Rock Citizens Made to Dr. Robert Bagnall, 10/2-3/1924); Probate Records, Arkansas History Commission, Little Rock, Arkansas; The National Register of Historic Places, 1986; Supreme Court of Arkansas lists of enrolled attorneys, Office of the Court Clerk, Little Rock, Arkansas;
K. Gibbs was identified as an attorney in the 1876-77 City Directory of Little Rock (Pulaski County, Arkansas), Pine Bluff & Hot Springs. Nothing else is known about him.
Sources: Judith Kilpatrick, “(EXTRA)Ordinary Men: African-American Lawyers and Civil Rights in Arkansas Before 1950,” 53 Ark. Law Rev. 299, 303 n8, 339 (2000); 1876-77 Little Rock, Pine Bluff & Hot Springs City Directory;
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