The Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter National Bar Association (“VHFCNBA”) (formerly known as “Florida Chapter National Bar Association”) has made great strides since its inception.
The organization began in the 1950s with a group of African-American lawyers who were members of the Chi Epsilon Legal Fraternity that mercilessly fought against injustice in Florida. The original members (including the late Paul C. Perkins, the late G.E. Graves, the late Francisco Rodriguez, the late F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr., T.J. Cunningham, Earnest Jackson, Horace Hill, the late William Holland, I.C. Smith, the late T.J. Reddick, Charles Wilson, Sr., Earl Johnson, William Fordham, Raleigh Rawls, James Collier, Norris Woolfolk and Henry Arrington) traveled tirelessly throughout the state providing support and strength to one another. They proclaimed their mission as “ensuring access to the justice system; increasing economic parity for the less fortunate, underprivileged and disadvantage of our society; and educating the community (particularly, the Black Community) on the need for empowerment and self-determination.”
With the inclusion of African-American female lawyers, the organization not only changed its name to the Florida Chapter National Bar Association, but also became a state affiliate chapter of the National Bar Association (“NBA”) in the 1960s. Needless to say, the VHFCNBA had made its mark on the NBA and is proud to claim as its members six past Presidents of the NBA, including: W. George Allen, 1975-76; Warren Hope Dawson, 1982-83; Arthenia Joyner, 1984-1985; H.T. Smith, 1994-1995; Evett Simmons, 2000-01; Linnes Finney, 2006-07 and Daryl D. Parks, 2011-12.
In 2002, the VHFCNBA established a Judicial Council to serve as an independent autonomous entity within the organization. The Judicial Council consists of African-American members of the judiciary and is dedicated to addressing issues that are specific to this esteemed group.
Today, the VHFCNBA consists of a network of nearly 1,000 attorneys statewide. Under the leadership of H.T. Smith, the VHFCNBA established a scholarship/loan fund to aid law students and recent graduates. Indeed, the VHFCNBA has been the catalyst for the establishment of local, affiliate Black bar associations throughout Florida. The VHFCNBA serves as the umbrella by which the local chapters exist. These local chapters work together to strengthen the VHFCNBA through joint projects and shared vision. The local, affiliate chapters of the VHFCNBA include: Caribbean Bar Association, Daniel Webster Perkins Bar Association, F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. Bar Association, George Edgecomb Bar Association, the Haitian Lawyers Association, National Bar Association Southwest Florida Chapter, Paul C. Perkins Bar Association, National Women Lawyers Division- Dade County, Tallahassee Barristers Association, T.J. Reddick Bar Association, Virgil Hawkins Bar Association and Wilkie D. Ferguson Bar Association.