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In the Matter of George B. Vashon: Righting Wrongs.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | May 8, 2010

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, on motion of Pittsburgh Attorney Wendell Freeman, admitted George B. Vashon to the Bar.  He was denied the right to apply for membership in the Allegheny County Bar Association in 1847 on account of his race, as set forth in the following opinion:

May 4, 2010, Decided




AND NOW, this 4th day of May, 2010, upon consideration of the Petition filed by Wendell Freeland, Esquire, on behalf of the family of George B. Vashon, this Court recognizes that George B. Vashon possessed the necessary credentials, competency, and good character to practice law in Pennsylvania in 1847 based upon his bachelor and masters degrees from Oberlin College, his mentorship with the Honorable Walter Forward of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and his subsequent admissions to practice law in the State of New York and before the U.S. Supreme Court. This Court further acknowledges that Article V, Section 10 of the existing Pennsylvania Constitution gives the Pennsylvania Supreme Court the exclusive authority to prescribe the general rules governing admission to the Pennsylvania Bar and to regulate the practice of law.

This Court further recognizes that Mr. Vashon applied for admission to practice before the Allegheny County Bar in 1847 (which appears to have been a prerequisite to practice before this Court), but the examining committee refused to consider his application solely on the basis that he was African-American and therefore could not vote, noting [*2]that the revision to the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1838 only extended voting rights to “every white freeman.” Such discrimination, of course, would be intolerable today.

In acknowledgement of Mr. Vashon’s credentials and achievements, this Court hereby admits George B. Vashon to the practice of law in the Courts of this Commonwealth posthumously. Furthermore, Wendell Freeland, Esquire, and the family members of George B. Vashon are hereby invited to be present at a session of this Court during which this Court will confirm its acknowledgment of George B. Vashon’s qualifications to practice law. The Prothonotary is instructed to contact counsel to make any desired and necessary arrangements so that the presentation can be made in open Court, during a convenient session of the Court.

It is so ordered.

Additional information is contained in the following article that appears in the Pittsburgh Channel website.


CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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