A Black Law Firm Comes to Gainesville

Josiah T. Walls
Josiah T. Walls

[Josiah]Walls also began to practice law. During the spring term of the Alachua circuit court in 1873, he applied for and was granted admission to the Florida Bar. He went before an examination committee appointed by the judge of the circuit court. Three Gainesville attorneys, Robert Taylor,  George Arrow, local prosecutor, and Samuel Y. Finley, former mayor of Gainesville, found him competent in the law and made a favorable recommendation to the court. He was sworn in during the session. 

Eventually Walls, Henry Harmon, who had been admitted to the bar in 1874, joined forces in a Gainesville law firm providing legal services to Alachua County Negroes. Nothing is known of the firm itself, and there are no extant records. Although it is unlikely that many Florida lawyers could have received much formal education for the profession, and Negro lawyers even less, Walls at least had had some prior experience, having served on state legislative committees for judicial reform and parliamentary procedures. He gathered some background in the law as a result of his contest with [Silas] Niblack. No doubt he added more to his limited but empirical legal knowledge while in Congress.”

Source: Josiah Walls: Florida’s Black Congressman of Reconstruction by Peter D. Klingman A University of Florida Book, 1976 p. 53

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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