Judge William A. McCain 100th birthday celebration
The public is invited to a 100th Birthday Celebration of Judge McClain’s life at 11 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 11, at Allen Temple A.M.E. Church, 7080 Reading Road in Cincinnati. Civil rights leader Reverend Otis Moss, formerly of Cincinnati and now of Cleveland, will be the guest minister.
Judge McClain was born on Jan. 11, 1913, in Sanford, North Carolina. He attended Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1934. In 1937, he received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School.
He has been a member of the Bar of Ohio for more than 70 years. In 1951, after being denied membership twice, Judge McClain became the first Black member of the Cincinnati Bar Association. He later became the City Solicitor of Cincinnati, from 1963 to 1972, making him the first Black attorney to serve as City Solicitor of any major city in the country.
During his years as an attorney, he was a member of the law firm of Keating, Muething & Klekamp from 1972 to 1973. He was the first Black judge of the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, and he also served on the Hamilton County Municipal Court as Civil Trial Referee for the same Court.
From 1980 to 2003, he was Of Counsel with the law firm of Manley Burke. Judge McClain served as the Director of Legal Services for the Village of Lincoln Heights from 1980 to 1987, and 1994 to 2003.
On May 4, 1997, he was awarded the highly coveted Ellis Island Medal of Honor. The award was created in 1986 to honor the many ancestral groups who through struggle, sacrifice, and success helped build our great nation. The Mallory Center for Community Development bestowed upon him its History Maker Award on Feb. 24, 2001. In 2003, the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce recognized him as "A Great Living Cincinnatian." The crowning moment of his life came on Oct. 23, 2004, when Wittenberg University dedicated "The William A. McClain Culture House" in honor of his life and career as the only Black graduate in the Class of 1934.
Judge McClain is a member of numerous organizations, including, but not limited to, the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati (BLAC), the Cincinnati Bar Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, the National Bar Association, and the American Bar Association. He is a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a member of the American Judicature Society, the Cincinnati Bar Foundation, and the Lawyers Club of Cincinnati.
He became the first Black member of the Lawyers Club in 1947, after a heated debate over his admission. On Sept. 22, 1994, he was recognized for this and other accomplishments at a joint meeting of the Lawyers Club of Cincinnati and BLAC.
Judge McClain and his late wife since 1944, Roberta (White) McClain, have had a scholarship in his name, donated by the law firm of Keating, Muething & Klekamp. This scholarship will be awarded to a Black law student attending any accredited law school who has demonstrated leadership potential and a dedication to the Cincinnati community, and has expressed a financial need. The Cincinnati Bar Foundation and BLAC fund this scholarship jointly.