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Who is S.L. Hutchins?

Born November 21, 1852 in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Styles L. Hutchins was a noted African American attorney in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He Attended Atlanta University and after completing his studies became an educator. In 1873, Hutchins moved to South Carolina where he graduated from the University of South Carolina Law School in 1876 and was admitted to practice law in the state of South Carolina.

Hutchins later returned to Georgia and in 1878, he became the first African American attorney admitted to the Georgia bar.

In 1881, Hutchins moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee and opened a law office. He also partnered with other local African Americans to establish a newspaper, The Independent Age, which Hutchins edited. Hutchins was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1886 representing Hamilton County from 1887 to 1888.

One of Hutchins' most important legal cases involved the lynching of Ed Johnson. In 1906 Ed Johnson was accused and quickly convicted of raping a white woman. While his habeas corpus petition, prepared by Hutchins and fellow black attorney Noah W. Parden, was before the U.S. Supreme Court, a Chattanooga mob lynched Johnson, in what proved to be the last lynching in the city's history. At the urgings of Hutchins and others, federal officials cited the Hamilton County sheriff and other officials for contempt of court for not preventing the lynching. In United States v. Shipp (1909), the U.S. Supreme Court found the Hamilton County sheriff and the others guilty. Hutchins's and Parden's success at the federal level, however, quickly destroyed their Chattanooga careers. Threats and intimidation came from many quarters and both attorneys left for Oklahoma. 

In honor of Hutchins's accomplishments and courage, the S. L. Hutchins Bar Association has been established in Chattanooga.

About SL Hutchins Bar Association

The S.L. Hutchins Bar Association was founded to honor and preserve the legacy of Chattanooga’s first African-American attorney, Styles L. Hutchins. Attorney Hutchins’ story is a powerful and timely reminder of the complicated history of Tennessee’s legal profession and inequality under the law. The S.L. Hutchins Bar Association is the only active minority bar association in Hamilton County, Tennessee and is dedicated to growing and maintaining a diverse voice in the legal profession and community. The S.L. Hutchins Bar Association is an affiliate chapter of the National Bar Association, the oldest and largest association of attorneys of color in the world.

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Executive Officers.

2022 Executive Officers.

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